Anne Parnham’s retirement voyage of discovery

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For 40 years Anne Parnham ran one of the district’s most recognisable businesses: Campbelltown Lighting Centre.

There would not be many local residents who did not visit the Blaxland Road store at some point in the past four decades.

Last year Ms Parnham decided she had enough and sold the business.

But it didn’t take long before she was mugged by retirement.

“First couple of months into your retirement you’re in holiday mode, you think, this is great,’’ she tells me when we sit down to talk about an idea she has to help others cope with the challenges that come after giving up work.

“I resurfaced the lawn, now it looks like it’s on steroids, I re-did the back verandah, painted things, all those things I never had time to do before,’’ Ms Parnham said.

“So you’re feeling good, this is great, got things done, cleaned out, decluttered, and you’re sitting there after 12 weeks and you think, damn, what am I going to do now?’’

And it was at this point that a light went off in her head and Ms Parnham realised that to make retirement work, well, you’ve got to work at it.

She had already noticed a couple of older siblings, who were in executive roles during their working lives, struggle to come to terms with retirement.

Coupled with her own experience in those first two to three months, Ms Parnham set out on a journey of discovery if you like.

Her destination was a retirement program that helped her, and others, navigate the pitfalls of life after work.

“The number one thing for people when they retire is they suffer from anxiety,’’ she says.

“Retirees lose their purpose, and question what is happening to them at that time of their lives.

“Most people like to have a purpose to get out of bed.

“So after seeing my brothers become frustrated in retirement, I thought I need to really think about this,’’ Ms Parnham said.

“You have to reassess you whole life and the routines you used to have.

“And then you have to say what do I want, what am I good at, what would I like to do.’’

Ms Parnham said she formulated an exercise program for herself as part of her own response to the retirement blues.

Ms Parnham outside Campbelltown Lighting Centre in late 2021. Top: at Macarthur Square for the South West Voice interview.

“I went from a physical job – I used to unload trucks – to sitting in front of a computer, so I thought, hang on, I have got to exercise now,’’ she says.

“It’s part of creating some sort of routine for yourself, something that gives you a purpose to get out of bed.’’

Since “retiring’’, Ms Parnham has taken the reins as president of Narellan business chamber and accepted an invitation to sit on the board of ICare at Wollondilly.

“I love voluntary stuff, I’m on a lot of boards in a voluntary capacity,’’ she says.

The thing that’s given her most focus is creating a program that will help people not only get through retirement but indeed enjoy those years after their careers or businesses are done and dusted.

There will be a website offering three levels of assistance, and Ms Parnham says it will be launched soon.

“This is a problem that’s going to get bigger – something like 60,000 baby boomers are going to retire in the next few years,’’ she says.

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