The bird whisperer

Since moving into Eaglemount Retirement Resort in Mackay QLD, Shirley Saunders has taken up a gym class and made countless new friends – of both the human and bird variety.


There’s so much to enjoy about living at Eaglemount. I moved in seven years ago and I’m involved in everything that’s going on here. I love people, having friends, meeting new ones. I can be a little bit outspoken so I get into trouble sometimes, but it’s all good fun. I really enjoy the company of everyone – and playing carpet bowls every Saturday afternoon. There’s always something to do here, whether I’m sitting at home knitting, colouring in, doing crosswords, reading, watching TV, or going down to the clubhouse. The days aren’t long enough.

My friend Sheila and I do an exercise class in the village together. We only been doing it for three weeks now – and it gets a little bit harder each week. It’s sensible exercise, perfect for our age group. Our teacher Rosemary plays great music, Elvis Presley, stuff like that. It makes you want to dance. We also play cards three days a week. Everything we do is all about fun. Everyone’s got something that they’re good at and I always say mine’s talking.

Retirement means you should be able to enjoy your life. I’ve been lucky – I’m still recovering from breast cancer but I’m one of the lucky ones. Life’s good. I spend my time living and enjoying myself here. Before I retired I worked in the bank and then married a man with five kids which put me out of work for quite a while. By the time I’d brought them up, computers were so far ahead – I retired just before they came in.

The best thing I ever did was move here – because I love talking to people. But there’s another reason I’m so happy now too – I recently inherited a bird from my friend Sheila. Charlie is a male cockatiel, and I told Sheila I’d look after him when she went away. We were together for a fortnight and I completely fell in love with him. When I gave Charlie back, I thought, gee I miss him. Sheila’s quite a bit younger than me and out a lot of the time – and Charlie loves company. I probably shouldn’t have said it to her, but I said, “I don’t think you’re a bird person! If you don’t want him, I’ll take him.” Sheila ummed and uhhed for a while, before deciding I could have him. Now I’m not a bird person but I just love him.
If something happened to him I’d be so upset.

It sounds stupid but we don’t know how old Charlie is or what his background was. He was apparently mishandled before Sheila got him because you can’t touch him with your hands, but he’ll come up onto my chest and want me to talk to him. Every day he does something new. When Sheila comes to visit, he gets all excited and sits on her shoulder, but she says she doesn’t miss him, she just comes over to say hello. I sit down with Charlie on my knee and I’m happy just watching him. People have remarked around the place that since Charlie came into my life, I’ve changed. I’ve mellowed a bit.

I look at myself now and wish I was this outgoing when I was younger. I guess life experience and confidence changes you. I was an only child and Mum used to fill in my sentences for me. I never got a chance to come out of my shell. I’ve been married a couple of times and had kids to look after and now, it’s my time. I’ve come to really enjoy life, with my friends in the village, being completely myself.

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