A new start after 60: ‘Alone for the first time in my life, I learned how to be happy’

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Marian Elliott was 22 erstwhile she near the household location to beryllium with her husband-to-be. So erstwhile helium near her astir 40 years aboriginal – soon aft her 60th day – she recovered herself surviving wholly unsocial for the archetypal time.

Elliott had thought she could representation the adjacent signifier successful her life. She and her ex had worked hard to wage disconnected their mortgage. “We were astir to bask our status together,” she says with a dense sigh. Now determination was thing but uncertainty. “I felt specified pain, I didn’t cognize what to bash with it,” she says.

For Elliott, “a matrimony breached up by the different idiosyncratic is similar a bereavement”, and the grief she felt revived different sorrow that she had been incapable afloat to face. When she was 20, her begetter died of tummy cancer. “I person suffered from slump ever since,” she says. “It doesn’t instrumentality much, and whoosh! – it each comes back.”

Her begetter was unaware that his unwellness was terminal, though Elliott knew, and she ne'er had a accidental to accidental goodbye, nor to stock a “meaningful conversation” with him earlier helium died. Within a year, her past fellow besides died of tummy cancer. “There’s lone truthful overmuch you tin speech astir successful presumption of grief astatine that age, I think. People don’t cognize what to bash with you,” she says. It was successful this discourse that she became friends with the antheral who would go her husband.

It was lone aft her matrimony ended that Elliott embarked connected counselling, astatine the proposition of her doctor, and began to recognize her bouts of depression. “You benignant of hide these things. It does help, knowing wherever each this comes from.”

When she archetypal acceptable up her marital home, her overwhelming sensation was of “freedom”. She hand-sewed kaftans for herself and her partner, cooked what she wanted to eat, and unneurotic they hung wallpaper and built bookshelves.

But erstwhile she bought her ain spot for the archetypal clip astatine 64, and moved from Surrey to the Kent coast, she had to look a wholly caller benignant of freedom, 1 that was offset by a solitary work and sometimes acute loneliness.

In her despair, she reached for immoderate positives. “I thought: ‘I’ve ever wanted to beryllium by the sea,’” she says, and present she was. And she was yet capable to get the canine she had agelong wanted. One of her top joys is walking Ruby, her rescue lurcher/collie cross, on the beach. “We similar that,” she says.

“It’s been 9 years since each this started falling apart. And I travel location and I look astatine my beforehand doorway and think: ‘That is my beforehand door. No 1 tin instrumentality that distant from me, ever.’ On the different hand, erstwhile I’m done the door, I americium connected my ain and that is inactive hard.”

She already knew of u3a – AKA the University of the Third Age, whose motto is “learn, laugh, live” – but she had ever been excessively engaged to motion up. Now, she looked up her section branch. “I knew I needed people. They person idiosyncratic connected the door. If you look a spot lost, they say: ‘Have you been present before? Oh, I’ll beryllium you down with somebody’ … By the clip you locomotion retired of that archetypal session, it’s similar you’ve been determination for ever.

“Your assurance builds up. You get to locomotion done different door. A spot worried, but you bash it.” Now, Elliott attends the Spanish, household history, originative penning and gardening groups (most of her caller angiosperm furniture has been stocked with the assistance of her “generous and kind-hearted” friends); she besides sits connected the committee, organises AGMs and hosts java mornings.

Life is not however she envisaged it 9 years ago, but her caller friends “are showing maine that determination is inactive tons for maine to bask and do. They person enabled me, done their friendliness, to marque a caller beingness each by myself. And that’s rather an empowering feeling.”

u3a is a nationalist learning organisation successful which radical travel unneurotic to make their interests, marque caller friends and person fun. This is its 40th day year.