The NSW Seniors Week Ambassador program recruits prominent individuals in our community who embody the Live Life theme and inspire other seniors to be active, healthy, social and independent.
Ambassadors lend their names, time and energy to challenge some of society's stereotypes of ageing by drawing on their own personal experiences, feelings and anecdotes about ageing.
The 2013 NSW Seniors Week ambassadors are:
|PROFESSOR MICHAEL BESSER AM is a retired consultant neurosurgeon who is a clinical associate professor in the discipline of surgery at Sydney University. He also teaches neuro-anatomy to neurosurgical registrars at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on a voluntary basis. Michael believes it's important for seniors to keep an active interest in the area they were active in professionally or any other interests they have pursued. A man of diverse interests, this year he is undertaking a course in cosmology, an area that has long fascinated him. "Learning something new stimulates mental activity,” he says. “It helps maintain your place in the community and gives you dignity of purpose.” Michael, 66, enjoys cycling and competes in triathlons and ironman events. Since he retired, he has become very interested in the positive impact exercise has on the brain. "It's been shown to be a potent antidote to the onset of dementia alongside the many other benefits it has on general wellbeing," Michael says.|
|NAN BOSLER AM is president of the Australian Seniors Computer Club Association (ASCCA), which aims to help older people make the most of modern technology. She has been a wonderful advocate for adult education in NSW for decades and traces back her involvement in community organisations to when she was just 14. A true believer in lifelong learning, it was not until she was over 50 years old that she first went to university. Now aged 78, she has five tertiary qualifications in adult education, community organisation, local and applied history, plus a Masters in local government management. She has written numerous books on subjects including history, technology for seniors and community management, and she is very much a woman of action, particularly when it comes to advocating for older people. “I got sick of just talking about the problems of the world and decided to do something,” she says.
See Nan's video on YouTube.
ITA BUTTROSE AO, OBE is the 2013 Australian of the Year. A prominent journalist, celebrity and businesswoman, she has been a significant figure in Australian media for decades. Ita was founding editor of Cleo magazine, which broke new ground for women and how they are represented in the public sphere. This period of her career and life was the subject of the ABC hit series Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. She continued to blaze a trail as editor of the iconic Australian Women’s Weekly and became the first woman to edit an Australian metropolitan newspaper when she was appointed editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph. Ita is President of Alzheimer’s Australia and has long been an advocate for older Australians. The 71-year-old always has fresh insights to impart. On being a senior, she says: “Getting older is an exciting new chapter. If you are lucky you get to be old. Not everyone gets to be old.”
|ANN CUSACK is a fitness guru who has worked extensively with seniors to improve their flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. She is passionate about the difference physical activity can make to improving wellbeing. Ann, 69, uses boxing, pilates, aerobics, and step classes to keep her clients happy, maintain their interest and build fitness. Ann ran marathons until she had a hip replacement 10 years ago. Still super fit from daily workouts, she now concentrates on devising programs for people of all ages. Ann is a personal trainer and is involved in two programs through Fairfield Council: ‘In Shape and ‘Lift for Life’ where she supervises the sessions for people who have diabetes. Ann discovered aerobics 29 years ago when she left her office job for a career in fitness tuition. “Best decision I ever made,” she says.|
|NONI GOVE lives life as an adventurer and world traveller who provides seniors with advice about where to go and what to see and do. Noni started travelling in earnest when she turned 50. Now 74, she has been to more than 60 countries including exotic sites like Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal and India, where she met the Dalai Lama. She says age is no deterrent to travelling. “In China I met a 91-year-old Danish woman who was staying in a backpackers,” she said. Her favourite place is Koh Samet in Thailand. “I’ve been to Thailand 30 times in the past 20 years,’” she says. Noni was named Australia’s Most Adventurous Senior after winning a travel writing competition with a story about visiting poisonous snakes in South Korea. She was co-founder of The Bondi Beach Laughter Yoga Club.|
|WILLIAM (BILL) KING RFM has been in the frontline of fire fighting and prevention techniques in NSW for more than 50 years. The devastating Pulpit Point oil refinery explosion in Sydney in 1961 is the most vivid memory of his career. “There were drums of stuff exploding everywhere and flying in the air. It’s a wonder we weren’t killed,” he says. As commander of the Mosman station, William, 73, devotes time to explaining the need for fire safety techniques to residents and carers of aged care facilities. Winner of four gold medals for indoor rowing at the last Pan Pac Masters Games, William is a former graded rugby league player who is a staunch believer in staying active, fit and competitive as a way of life. William holds the Reserve Force Medal after 37 years in the Army Reserve and is a drummer in a pipe band.
See William's video on YouTube.
|MERLE PARRISH is a true champion baker. She has set records and collected awards for her dominant performances as a competitive producer of cakes, biscuits and scones in shows and fairs all over NSW. She won a new audience with her performances on TV’s high-rating MasterChef and her book of recipes Merle’s Kitchen is a bestseller. At just seven years of age, Merle won her first cooking competition at her local Cudal Show in NSW with Anzac biscuits. Based near Orange and now 80 years old, she has travelled thousands of kilometres to shows over the years to compete or judge, broken thousands of eggs and whisked untold kilos of batter. She is still cooking and has not lost any of her zest for life. “I like the sense of competition,” she says. Her awards include the Donna Latter memorial trophy in 2008 for a Supreme Chocolate Cake and for being the most successful competitor at the 2007 and 2009 Sydney Royal Easter Shows.|
|KUMAR PEREIRA returns as a 2013 NSW Seniors Week ambassador after he and fellow ambassador Merle Parrish delighted seniors last year with their cooking exhibition. They will join forces again this year and share their love for cooking with fellow foodies. Before Kumar became a household name thanks to his impressive performance in the 2011 MasterChef series, the 62-year-old worked as a graphic designer and teacher in Hong Kong and London and ran his own consultancy. A popular after-dinner speaker and cooking celebrity, Kumar came to Australia in 1988 and lives in Sydney’s inner west with his wife and two sons.
See Kumar's video on YouTube.
|GRAHAM ROSS VMM is the best known name in Australian horticulture and delights audiences with his encyclopaedic knowledge of anything green, growing and germinating. His engaging media performances highlight his joyous enthusiasm for helping people get more from their gardens. Graham graduated from Ryde TAFE School of Horticulture. He returned as a teacher, eventually becoming head of the NSW division of horticulture before moving into radio and TV. He has appeared in more than 700 episodes of TV’s Better Homes and Gardens over 19 years. Graham, his wife Sandra and daughter Linda have hosted the top rating Garden Clinic on radio 2GB for 33 years. He has also led more than 400 groups on trips to see gardens around the world and has been recognised with numerous awards for services to horticulture including the Gold Veitch Memorial Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society London. “I love sharing the joy of growing things. Not just flowers but fruit and vegetables that you can eat” he says.|
|AUNTY RUTH SIMMS OAM has dedicated her life to improving education opportunities for Aboriginal students. She received an Order of Australia Medal for service to education as an Aboriginal Education Officer. She supports children and their families and contributes to state curriculum planning. Still working full time at 71, she says she loves her job. “Education opens doors to jobs and better health which can make a big difference to bridging the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people,” she says. Aunty Ruth advocates at local and international forums as an indigenous representative and is a trusted and iconic figure in the Aboriginal community around Shellharbour.|
|DEBORAH RUIZ WALL OAM is 63 years old and has dedicated her life to promote reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. She received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to the community in areas of social justice, reconciliation and multiculturalism. As a teacher, she has used education as a powerful tool to enlighten and empower people. The subject of her PhD, the liquefied natural gas development project in the Kimberley, raises important issues about the ongoing challenges in the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Originally from the Philippines, she is a writer of non-fiction and poetry, and firmly believes that the pen can wield more power than the sword. “The bridging from one generation to the next is fundamental in the embrace of continuity, change and survival,” she says.|
|STEVE WIDDERS walked the Kokoda Track in 2011 and last year rode a tandem bicycle between Brisbane and Sydney to promote men’s health and wellbeing. Steve, 57, is legally blind and a member of the Anaiwan and Kamilaroi people of northern NSW. He works full time as an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer with Armidale Dumaresq Council. He’s also a member of the NSW Disability Council, the NSW Police Advisory Council and the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC). Steve says walking the Kokoda Track in a group that included five other indigenous people was a humbling experience. The local graves of five indigenous soldiers were adorned with Australian and Aboriginal flags. “We identified with those five men but the walk was to honour the memory of all the Australians who fell,” he says.|