Agnes treasures her independence
On the day we visit, Anglicare Home Care Services client Agnes Hogan has turned a slightly unsuccessful cake into delicious chocolate and lemon-flavoured lamingtons for afternoon tea.
Her unit is bursting at the seams with cards and flowers that mark her recent 100th birthday. The walls are covered with original paintings, many of which are her own, and the garden looks cheerful with potted colour.
Agnes turned to Anglicare relatively recently to help her with her shopping chores, when it became more difficult for her daughters, now in their 70s, to assist her. With just a walking stick and her Anglicare support worker alongside, she enjoyed regular trips to the Lower Sandy Bay shops. More recently she resorted to taxis and buses, and during the COVID-19 restrictions her shopping has been delivered by Anglicare.
“It’s important to stay independent: people can’t believe how old I am when they see me down at the shops!” she says.
Agnes’s life has been full of challenges and opportunities, and caring for others has been a recurring theme.
As the second oldest child with nine sisters and two brothers, she was often called upon to care for her younger siblings. Nine are now aged 90+, so longevity obviously runs in the family.
She describes her childhood in the Mallee wheat-belt as isolated and difficult. There were plagues of mice, rabbits and grasshoppers; drought, depression and the dreaded milking to contend with – but there were also magnificent balls, musical performances and suppers, a Christmas picnic put on by the soldiers, horses to ride and country to explore.
“Everyone was poor, but we made do,” she says. “I went back a few years ago for a reunion and the trees that we planted as children had returned the area to bush.”
Schooling didn’t come easily to Agnes and she started her working life at age 14 as a lady’s help in Melbourne. It was an unhappy time. When she was encouraged by a friend of her mother’s to consider mother-craft nursing she put her anxieties about studying to one side and gave it a try. She recalls how overwhelming it was to become one of only 200 registered mother-craft nurses in Australia at that time, and to sit her exams in the hallowed grounds of the University of Melbourne.
A stint looking after the young children of a well-to-do family in Toorak opened her eyes to a different world, before a yearning for country life saw her move to a large sheep station at Deniliquin in New South Wales for the next step in her career.
“Although it was a great life and I loved it, it was too isolated so I moved back to Melbourne and met my husband Jack – a farmer who had just returned from army service – at a dance in Moonee Ponds. He was wearing a dreadful blue suit but we were engaged just six months later!”
A move to Hobart
Agnes, Jack and their three children moved to Hobart in 1957 so that Jack could take up a position at The Mercury newspaper. “I cried buckets of tears just at the thought of the plane trip but [the move] was good for me,” she says.
During the 1960s, Agnes worked at the Strathaven Home in Berriedale before being asked to set up knitwear manufacturing firm TasTex in the following decade, where she stayed for eight years.
Travel beckoned following retirement, where a highlight for Agnes was Lapland and the Norwegian fjords. America, Bali and a trip around Australia followed and the pair celebrated their golden anniversary in 1996. Jack passed away in 1999.
Downsizing resulted in some logistical challenges when the family home at Berriedale sold within 48 hours of hitting the market, but Agnes embraced her move to Sandy Bay 10 years ago.
Now a proud great-grandmother to nine, she is particularly pleased to be able to welcome family and friends properly into her home again. She has enjoyed three birthday parties with family, friends and neighbours so far, all held under various social isolation restrictions, and another larger event is planned in the near future.
Agnes is looking forward to visiting the shops again soon. At the end of our conversation, she adds that she has also retained her love of painting: “I might have to have another go!” she says.
“Every day comes and every day passes and you just live it. Looking forward and keeping active is the key – sitting around reading books is not good!”
– Agnes Hogan, 100, of Sandy Bay