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Noeline Brown: Making Ageing Sexy

With a list of showbiz credits that covers theatre, television, radio, comedy, drama, singing and dancing, Noeline Brown has done it all. She’s described by many as an entertainment icon but her latest role as Ambassador for Ageing is one she is equally proud to embrace.

“Ireally did not know what this role would entail.” Noeline admits. “But it’s been very rewarding and surprising. “I didn’t think about it as being a very sexy issue – I thought it might have been a little depressing. “But the opposite is true. “Very few people are complaining; they are happy and they are getting out there and doing things.”

Since her appointment as Australia’s first Ambassador for Ageing in 2008 Noeline has travelled the nation promoting healthy and active ageing. It’s a role she first took on while continuing with her professional acting career, but with a second term now under her belt, the part-time gig is now a full-time position which takes her from small and intimate group gatherings to government meetings and major talk fests.

“As the first and only Ambassador for Ageing, there were no guidelines to follow,” Noeline says. “It started out as a part-time role but now is a very busy schedule which takes me all over the place. “After 52 years working professionally as an actor, I have had to say no to offers for work, but this is a something I am committed to. “I do admit to missing that (acting) part of my life, but I am sure I will get back to it. “It feels good to be doing something that is positive.”

When speaking about the main issues people bring up in her travels, health is the one that stands out.

“Most issues are small, but health is the most common one I hear about. “I was in Melbourne recently doing a speech on health and active ageing and a woman came up to me and said ‘I am active, I go to the gym and eat well, but it costs a lot of money’. “We need ways for people to get involved that are cost effective and there are a lot of things that people can do. “Joining a choir is a great example. “It provides upper body exercise, gets you out of the house, is a new challenge which also exercises the brain, and you are part of a group.”

It’s no surprise that Noeline has taken on this role of advocacy. While she has appeared on stage in productions such as Don’s Party and Beauty and the Beast and lit up the small screen with her sassy style in infamous roles on The Mavis Bramston Show, Graham Kennedy’s Blankety Blanks, Kingswood Country and No 96, Noeline has always had an active interest in community affairs. She stood for the Labour Party seat of the Southern Highlands in the 1999 State Election, was an Australian Day Ambassador in 2000 and spent two years with the NSW Premier’s Council for Women. A second attempt as Labour candidate in the 2003 state election saw her narrowly defeated, despite increasing the party’s primary vote. It was that year she engaged in writing her autobiography Noeline Brown – Longterm Memoir

In an interview with Peter Thompson on ABC’s Talking Heads Noeline described her upbringing in Sydney’s inner-city Stanmore as being from “a very happy home, two brothers, one on either side, and I was the bossy girl of the family. “We didn’t have a lot of things but we didn’t know that we didn’t have a lot of things because everybody was living much the same way.” She believes she had a lucky life, largely due to falling into acting, but also wanted to be a painter and writer. 

[pullQuote]“I have learnt that older Australians are not invisible. A great many of them are doing amazing things and they are taking the opportunity of retirement to go on to other things.” [/pullQuote]

Noeline is married to Tony Sattler, writer and producer of The Naked Vicar Show. “The Naked Vicar to me was the most fun that I’ve ever had in show business,” she said to Thompson.

“It showcased my talent more than any other thing that I had ever done, I suspect. “And it was probably the material more than anything else that attracted me to Tony Sattler in the beginning.”

The couple has been married for close to 40 years and they continue to live in the picturesque Southern Highlands where Noeline loves nothing more than to cook for great hordes of people. “I am an enthusiastic cook,” Noeline tells The Retiree. “I also think that you get a lot of exercise while cooking and serving people. “It’s not a sedentary task.”

Part way through her second tenure as Ambassador for Ageing, Noeline believes the ageing population is not a negative issue, as many in media and government report.

“I have learnt that older Australians are not invisible. “A great many of them are doing amazing things and they are taking the opportunity of retirement to go on to other things – volunteering, for example.” In Australia, volunteering adds $200 billion to the economy, and it’s also been shown to add years to your life. “People who volunteer can expect to live for nine years longer. “I think it’s largely because these people are active, but they are also part of a group. “Not being lonely makes a big difference.

“There are many fabulous places people can get involved with. “University of the Third Age, Men’s Shed, Red Cross, these are just a few.

“The way I see it I am ageing differently to the way my parents aged. “They depended on themselves and when one died, I saw the other so bereft. “Being part of a community has incredible benefits including support.”

Noeline also encourages older Australians to learn how to use a computer. “The internet opens a whole new world and if you don’t have one at home, you can access them at libraries. “Many volunteer organisations use them and I have seen a difference where people who use Skype in aged care facilities are keeping in contact with family who live far away. “Often, too, if they have lost hearing, a computer is so much better than telephone as they can see the people they are communicating with.” The Government initiative Broadband for Seniors is one Noeline particularly promotes.

While taking on this latest role with gusty, it is obvious Noeline’s is passionate about every task she takes on. And, whether she’s entertaining us on the stage or screen, or advocating for grey power, her influence is inspiring.

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