Tonia and Michael

Tonia & Michael_photo

Name: Tonia and Michael
Age at interview: 88 and 94
Gender: Female and male

Tonia and Michael are married and live together in a retirement village in Melbourne. Michael is 94 years old and is a retired road and bridge construction worker; Tonia is 88 and is a retired farmer. They are both from Russian-speaking backgrounds and immigrated to Australia via China 64 years ago.

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More about Tonia and Michael

Tonia and Michael have a large family. They had 11 children, ten of whom are alive. They have 27 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild. When they first migrated to Australia they lived in rural Victoria, and Tonia managed their large farm with fruit and vegetable gardens and cattle. She worked hard on the farm, doing household activities for her large family and parenting her children. Michael was frequently away, working on bridge and road construction. As their children grew up they gradually relocated to urban areas for further education and better job prospects. Tonia first noticed she was ageing soon after Michael had surgery; his leg was amputated due to venous insufficiency. It became difficult for her to provide care for Michael, to manage the farm and to do laborious tasks, such as cutting logs for the fireplace. They decided to relocate to the city to be closer to their children.

Although Tonia and Michael have a warm relationship with their children and grandchildren, they decided not to put the burden of care upon them. They sold their farm and purchased a small house in a retirement village in the suburbs of Melbourne. Their children and adult grandchildren frequently visit them and provide Tonia and Michael with immense care and support, and help with transport and shopping. They have a yearly roster for the family to take Tonia and Michael to church on Sundays; and some children regularly come from other states if it is their turn.

Tonia and Michael adjusted well to the retirement village and have made a lot of friends there. They also have some Russian-speaking friends from their ethnic Baptist church. They enjoy the freedom of religion in Australia. When they lived on the farm, Tonia provided space for Christian youth travelling from Melbourne to Sydney and back for religious events. She was sorry when she was no longer able to do this. Tonia and Michael also contribute financially to sending parcels to orphanages in Ukraine.

Tonia and Michael believe they still have sharp memories; they remember all their family members. Michael complains of deafness and blindness that has come with age, which means he can no longer watch TV or hear speech clearly even with his hearing aid. Michael is pleased he has memorised many Bible verses and can repeat them in his mind, which he believes has helped to preserve his memory. Tonia and Michael see nothing particularly positive about ageing, but believe that with God's help everything is possible to overcome. They believe in eternal life and do not feel scared of death.