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Living life when you're not the retiring type

Written by Margot Taylor
on March 11, 2020

When William Secker leans forward and says with a wry smile “I’m far too busy to die”, he is only half joking. 

In fact William and his wife Elizabeth are finding that retirement is the busiest time of their lives. 

For the past 12 years the Nellie Melba Retirement Village residents have volunteered to support neurological and palliative patients at a hospital day centre in Melbourne’s Parkdale.


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William and Elizabeth say supporting people when they are at their most vulnerable, through the provision of art therapy, companionship, friendship and laughter is as beneficial for them as it is the people they help.

“We won’t stop volunteering until we get the sack,” William laughs.

Volunteering at the hospital once a week was a natural fit for the vivacious couple who have always had a progressive approach to health and well being.

Both are Reiki Masters, and have a keen interest in Eastern Philosophies.

“When we started volunteering the hospital was looking for trained reiki practitioners,” Elizabeth says.

While the couple ended up doing “very little reiki”, they draw on their backgrounds, including their interest in holistic care, whenever they volunteer.

“We are grateful every day for being able to do what we do.

“When we drive to the hospital and see people that are really struggling, we appreciate our own blessings,” Elizabeth says.

As part of their volunteer work the couple also spend time with people in palliative care, something which they both say is an immense privilege.

“Sometimes people say, ‘I am so scared of dying’,” Elizabeth says.

“My response is ‘no one has come back to complain about it’.

“I think that on the other side of the veil one is well looked after.”

Since moving to Nellie Melba Retirement Village six months ago, William has developed an interest in woodwork, and is now taking wooden boats made at the village to the hospital for patients to paint as art therapy.

The toys will be auctioned later in the year, with proceeds to be donated to Ryman’s 2020 charity partner, the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Outside of the hospital, the Secker’s live a busy life.

This busy lifestyle, including involvement with Probus, regular visits to the theater, and model train making, has not slowed since they moved to the village.

“We know mental stimulation is very important,” Elizabeth says.

“If your mind is not working properly, then your body will follow suit.”

The couple’s lust for life has seen them invited to some “very good” parties at the village.

Elizabeth says they live their lives on the principle of “treating others the way we would like to be treated ourselves”.

“We get a lot back from what we do.

“We are indeed blessed in many ways.”

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