Newspaper Article 2013 – It’s Never Too Late


Getting older is a licence to kick back and take it easy, right? Phooey! Say these vital oldies, who reckon doing nothing means the death of life. Bess Manson reports.


Waka paddler and masters graduate, of Hastings.

“I started waka paddling two years ago with the Clive Waka Ama club after a guy in my Maori language class asked me to help out.

He wanted me to motivate some of the older ones to take part. I was 79 at the time so I was in a good position to do that.

I thought it might be a bit of a giggle. And I was right.

I’d had a hip replacement a few years before and I thought it would be a good chance to stay fit, meet people and learn something new.

Paddling is all about team work, co-ordination and keeping up your fitness.

It’s also so much fun. One of the groups I paddle with is a group of older women – ‘The Nanas’. We just laugh all the time. It’s the social aspect that I enjoy the most. Sometimes we paddle 11km a session. I paddle with a group of men in their 60s and 70s too so I can rack up more than 20km on the water a week. We paddle right through the winter too.

I’m always looking for ways to improve myself. I’d left school in the fourth form and became a carpenter but in my late 50s I became ill with ME. I started losing my memory so decided I had to try and work my mind. I took up some papers at Massey University and did a couple each year for the next 20 years.

I started out with a C+ but before long I was getting As. I cannot describe how that felt. I wondered what I could have become, what I could have achieved if I’d done this earlier but then I enjoyed my life as a carpenter. Now I call myself a blue collared academic.

I ended up with a BA (Hons) and an MA in history. I also took a course in Maori language and now speak it pretty well. I loved studying. It was nothing but total enjoyment. At my graduation I remember sitting there gobsmacked that I had this piece of paper, that I’d earned it.

My four kids were so proud of me. I think my wife, Margaret, would have preferred to have me a bit more present instead of having my head in a book all the time. After I got my masters I started writing a book about Maraekakaho Station and Sir Donald McLean, which is to be published later this year.

I know most people at 81 want to sit down a bit more but I want to keep going.

I loved my 70s and I’m loving being in my 80s. I never dreamed I would be having so much fun.”

Captions: ‘I’m loving being in my 80s. I never dreamed I would be having so much fun.’

Alan Scarfe, 81

Photo caption – Alan Scarfe, front, paddles in a waka ama at Clive, Hawke’s Bay. Photo: John Cowpland

Original digital file


Date published

23 February 2013

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Creator / Author

  • Bess Manson
  • John Cowpland


Dominion Post


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