After a topple in the snow, a ‘light-bulb’ moment and a severe case of ‘downsizing’ Dr Adele Thomas stepped boldly out into a wide and wonderful world with chiropractor husband, Dr Ely Lazar, and have since sampled a large slice of the globe. In the past 30 years they have travelled through Asia, Europe and 43 states in the USA and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“We were going along very nicely in our professions and then in 2009 I had a skiing accident and broke my hip,” said Adele. “It healed well, but it was a timely reminder that life is short and we need to get on with what we really want to do. And highest on the list was our own life choices and not what might have been expected of us.”
“Other people take long-service leave so why shouldn’t we?”
“So it was goodbye to the four-bedroom house and farewell to my beautiful Ford Mustang. We put everything in storage and just took off!”
“While we were away we put together a travel ‘blog’ and that morphed into ‘Passionate Retirees’, our website that espouses the golden opportunities for people approaching retirement.”
Ageing doctors struggle
Adele’s insights into the joy and tragedy of medicine combined with the sheer fragility of life resonate with many of the questions other medical practitioners may be tossing around as they approach the twilight of their careers.
It’s no secret that some doctors have an inordinate commitment to their work, often to the detriment of their own personal development.
“I’m still working 15 hours a week as a GP in Subiaco and so many older people, doctors among them, come up to me and say ‘oh, what am I going to do now?’ And some of them are anxious and depressed about what the future may hold.”
“There’s a creeping ageism in the medical workforce. Perhaps not so much for GPs, but I’ve had surgeons come to me and say they feel they’re being subtly pushed out. It can be difficult in a highly skill-based profession.”
“On the other hand, I was speaking with a retired doctor who’s approaching 90. He’s just discovered sculpture and painting and is also writing a memoir for his grandchildren.”
“We have this picture of retired doctors on their hobby farms, riding around on their tractors and tending their grape vines. But that’s a small minority. And there are others who do volunteer work overseas but, particularly as you get older, that can be rather challenging. It’s pretty rough in some of those countries and skills that were highly relevant in Australia may not be in developing countries.”
“It can be quite demoralising and once it’s all over, then what do you do?”
It’s obvious that travel is near the top of the agenda for both Adele and Ely.
They’ve had wonderful moments along the way but Adele isn’t averse to relating a cautionary tale.
“We were hiking in a national park in Patagonia, the sunrise was hitting the granite mountain peaks and it was absolutely awe-inspiring! On the other side of the coin, we were in the Pyrenees walking along some badly marked trails and attempting to follow equally poorly translated instructions. We got lost and pretty much ignored a sign stating, Caution – Dangerous Paths!”
“Before we stumbled back 10 hours later, we’d had to walk sideways along a cliff wall with a 2000’ drop and climb a ladder bolted to a rock-face.”
“There are risks and rewards with travel but we broke the rules. You have to extend yourself to find out what your limits are but, equally so, you have to be aware of your own limitations. When it comes to travelling as an older person our message is more how to travel rather than where to travel.”
“We’re hoping to shift the paradigm of what it means to get older,” said Ely. “I was quite shocked to see a sign at a Seniors’ Parking Area – the image was of a hunched old man with a cane. Adele and I are getting close to 70, we love skiing and we go tornado chasing. It’s all about finding your passion and getting on with it!”
• Get checked by your GP
• Know your limitations
• Prior research – the cobblestones of Europe can be challenging
• Exercise – squats may come in handy. Toilets come in all shapes and sizes.