Doreen Woods: The unsinkable senior citizen

Doreen Woods and Mary Madigan. Photo: Supplied.

Doreen Woods and Mary Madigan. Photo: Supplied.

On August 1, 2018 the Gerringong Senior Citizens Club held its very last meeting at the Gerringong Town Hall.

Doreen Woods, 88, also known as my Nan, took the minutes for the last time, in the same book she’d been using for the last 10 years, while she sipped on a cup of tea.

She had been the secretary for the Senior Citizens for more than 30 years, 10 members turned up to say goodbye to a club that had been a part of their lives, the oldest member of the group was 98 and was also the longest standing member, but was unable to make the final meeting.

The Senior Citizens was a place to socialise and relax and occasionally bicker with each other.

Nan told me as they packed up their chairs for the last time, it hit her how much she had enjoyed Senior Citizens, but also how she was too old to be packing up chairs.

My Nan attended her first Senior Citizens meeting 30 years ago, when she was new to town.

She had attended with the hope of making friends and becoming part of the community – her hopes were successful.

She cultivated relationships and it gave her a sense of purpose. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a supermarket with Nan specifically to buy a prize for the bingo they held fortnightly, or how many times I’ve eaten left over Senior Citizen cake with cordial for an afternoon snack.

I’ve also sat around the table while she’s painstakingly organised bus trips and entertainment.

My Grandpa used to joke that she was CEO of her own company because she treated it with such diligence.

Nan would ignore us and continue working out the seating arrangements for Mother’s Day, careful not to put any feuding old people together.

Just like any friendship group there was always a little bit of drama, sometimes even romance. A single man that still had his drivers licence was always an eligible bachelor and could cause competition among the single ladies.

My Nan helped organise bus trips and getaways including a particularly memorable trip to the Blue Mountains when they all got stuck in a broken down scenic railway train that hovered over the mountain range for hours.

She was awarded the Commonwealth Recognition Awards for Senior Australians in 1991 and in 2009 she was awarded the Kiama Municipal Council award for services to the aged.

All of her community work has stemmed from her involvement in Senior Citizens and she has never described it as “work”.

My Nan has been involved in the Senior Citizens for longer than I have been alive. During this time, in our family, we have had births, deaths, marriages, divorces, graduations we have had many things to celebrate.