It’s an exciting time for Audrey Kuchel, a 92 year old from Ballarat, who Feros Care recently announced as the winner of their 2016 Get Bold Not Old photo competition.
Get Bold Not Old is part of an ongoing campaign by Feros Care to show that age is just a number, and that the elderly members of the community, like Audrey, are larger than life.
Audrey’s photo was entered by her daughter Lynne Watts who submitted a photo from their trip to Fiji two years ago.
Audrey is the the oldest woman to complete the thrilling Giant Zipline in Fiji, happily dangling 30 metres off the ground with a steep ascent. “Everyone on the cruise couldn’t believe she was 90” Lynne says.
“I was unable to get a photo of her actually on the zipline. I tried to get in front of her and take the photo to prove that she had done it. She just took off and I couldn’t catch up to her,” Lynne explains.
After completing the course, Audrey asked if she could do it again, “she just said she would love to do it again. Asked me what I thought about the river we crossed. I was too terrified to notice the scenery”.
The zipline is also known as the “death slide” and is proof that this great grandmother is still an adrenalin junkie at heart.
Audrey grew up in South Australia until the age of 15 when she moved to Victoria.
She was based in Mildura where she married and had her first three children – two sons and a baby girl, Lynne.
Audrey then moved to Ballarat in the 50’s and had two more sons.
Today she has a total of five children, ten grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
“My hubby died when we were both 66,” which Audrey describes as “too young”.
A few years after her husband died, Audrey travelled to England – the first time she’d been overseas.
“She’s always wanted to go to England and attend the Edinburgh Tattoo in Scotland. And visit Europe,” Lynne says of her mother, “she went on her tour of Europe alone and made many friends on the trip”. She was in her late 60s at the time.
Audrey’s father was English and when she was over there she travelled and discovered her family roots, “I found my father’s village, his house, his school, his church”.
The experience was particularly moving as Audrey explains that “it was really important to me” to see where her family came from.
While in Europe, Audrey stayed with her cousin that she’d never met, but had always corresponded with. During her time there Audrey managed to visit five countries in 12 days, she says the history of Europe “fascinates me”.
Audrey has seen many places near and far, having been “just about around Australia” through all the states and up the central parts too.
Audrey is passionate about travel, and much of her travels appear to revolve around family – whether it be travelling together or travelling to see them.
Lynne is the middle child of five, and Audrey’s only daughter. Every year Audrey and Lynne make the effort to travel somewhere together – last year they did New Zealand together.
In January they’re planning on going on a short cruise to Tasmania. Lynne’s never been before, but Audrey has twenty years ago.
Another family-based adventure Audrey ventured on was when her third son got married – in Mauritius. She travelled there on her own as her son had no one there.
Audrey’s sense of adventure also runs in the family, her 36 year old granddaughter is about to spend Christmas and the New Year backpacking in Nepal.
“She was skydiving a couple of weeks ago. She takes after her Grandmother. I’m very proud of her,” Lynne beams about her daughter.
Lynne’s daughter and mother share a special bond over their love of travelling, “it’s fascinating, listening to the both of them talking about places they’ve both seen.”
Lynne claims the “adventurous side skipped a generation with me” but she herself has travelled quite a bit.
“We travel together and although she has been happy to travel alone, I did and still do, prefer her company when I travel,” Lynne says of her mum.
However, she has also inspired Lynne to try travelling alone, “I think now, that she has inspired me to do it on my own. After all if she can do it, so can I.”
Being Audrey’s only daughter, Lynne does worry about Audrey but realises that “worrying about mum and her travels will not stop her from doing it. I know if anything happened, she would have left us doing something that she loved”.
Life is a little more stationary now that Audrey stays in a retirement village. “I am more reassured that she has someone nearby at all times. When she was still living in her house on her own, I was more worried that she would take a fall in the back garden with no-one around,” says Lynne.
But that doesn’t stop Audrey from living an active life, this includes her passion for playing Bowls, “I’ve been playing for 20 years. I think that keeps me pretty fit”.
“When mum was about 60, roughly my age now, she started to learn to drive. She finally got her license at 63 and has driven a manual car since,” Lynne say.
Audrey is proof that it’s never too late to learn something new, “even now she drives herself to Bowls and all of her activities”.
Still left on Audrey’s to do list: “I’d love to go across Canada. I think that would be a great trip.”
Audrey’s big life lesson is clear, “you’ve got to get out and socialise and be active”.
“We’re only here once”, she says, “if you’ve got a goal, you’ve got to work towards it and do your best”.