Jill and her husband had always longed for a dog. But with busy working lives and love of holidays abroad, it wasn’t until she retired that her dream came true.
“My retirement present from the school where I had taught for 35 years was some money. We toured the rescue centres, looking for a dog that would be happy running,” she remembers.
Looking for a dog as active as its owner
In the end, they opted for a sprocker spaniel – a highly active breed with demanding exercise needs, which few people would think of as suitable for a couple heading into later life.
“If we don’t give her at least seven miles a day she tears the house up, so we get out whatever the weather is doing!” says Jill.
I was fine during the summer, but when everyone went back to school in the autumn I thought I’d made an absolutely horrible mistake.”
She dealt with her emotions in a practical manner, booking herself on to a German language course in Austria. Back home, she added French lessons to keep her mind active. “Retirement is a time of opportunity, a time to pursue the things you haven’t had time to pursue before,” she says.
Her languages have come in handy, as she and her husband took up skiing in their late 50s. “We started with cross-country because we thought we were too old to do downhill, but then we got hooked. Now we go three times a year.”
It was the one foreign holiday they weren’t prepared to give up for the sprocker (who stays with one of Jill’s running mates, so still gets plenty of exercise when they’re away). They have skied in many different places, but their favourite is Scandinavia because they can combine the downhill and the cross-country skiing in one holiday.
Keeping healthy in later life
Back home, Jill volunteers doing clerical work at her local church, as well as helping out at a lunch club for older people.
“I have a bigger circle of friends than I did when I was teaching and it’s such a wide range of people – people I would never have mixed with before. It really broadens your horizons,” she says.
But, she adds, keeping healthy is the most important element in later life; if you have that, then anything else is possible. “Running is my life, I love it,” she says. “I love the friendships I’ve made through the running club, I love that I can eat anything I want! You need a variety of activities in your life; I say follow your passions, but try something new as well. You might just find a new passion.” You can hear more from Jill in series two of our podcast, Rewirement. Jill features in our episode, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind.