A joyful new career at 60+

Lessons from Hilda Des Arts

In 2001 while I was Team Leader establishing the Ipswich office of The Smith Family Learning for Life Program (located at Goodna, Queensland), I was privileged to share a short yet profound conversation with a wonderful woman who still inspires me today, even though she passed away in 2002.

While attending a community-based conference at the Ipswich campus of the University of Queensland, my colleague and I were warmly welcomed during a break by Dr Hilda Des Arts, who was a guest, as we were, and who was front row centre, fully engaged in proceedings and discussions.

Hilda was memorable to me for several reasons: she told us she was in her mid-80s; she was confined to a wheelchair; and she was the most engaged and engaging person in the room. As I learned later, she was a highly regarded psychologist and advocate for life-long learning.

In our short conversation she told us briefly that she had run successful businesses in Europe as a young woman (a large printing business and a hotel) and had migrated to Australia in 1978. Here in Australia and in her 60s, she decided to become a social worker and she stated with pleasure, “I went on to have another fabulous 20-year career!”

Wow! That simple statement has inspired me ever since!

Examples of just a couple of Hilda’s legacies in the Ipswich area:

The Ipswich City Council appointed Hilda as Coordinator of the SeniorNet Australia Project in January 1995. She formed a steering committee to establish a local association of SeniorNet in Ipswich as a computer skills learning centre with social interaction for the region’s seniors: that group also served as a model for establishing SeniorNet branches nationally.

(Image source: SeniorNet Association)
 

An initiative of Ipswich Hospice Care, Hilda’s House, has been named after the late Dr. Hilda des Arts. Hilda’s House provides support to people who are facing the end of their life, their loved ones and for people who are bereaved.

What is your next “fabulous career”?

Bev R, career change coach

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