JAN Wilcox’s story of anxiety over COVID, getting older and what the future held will be familiar to many women in their 50s and 60s.
The 62-year-old Rosebud resident’s life was plunged into turmoil when COVID hit, and she wasn’t sure whether her job was secure or where she would end up.
Ascending into a journey of self-fulfillment, Wilcox had quit her job and sought out a new career path. Except, one month later, the whole world was at a standstill thanks to lockdown.
But her story of triumph over the dark forces of anxiety and ageing is uplifting and she hopes that by telling it others can find the same happiness she has.
“I’d been in a job washing dishes in a kinder at Capel Sound for about 10 years, but then COVID hit and I had a bit of a meltdown, and quit,” she said.
“I’m not even sure why I quit, but I knew pretty quickly that I was in trouble, because at my age there really isn’t much available.”
After a few months Wilcox’s state of mind was not getting any better, so she contacted Wise Women, a program designed to help older women find meaningful work or volunteer placements.
“Luckily, my old kinder also called about this time and asked me if I could come back, initially for one day a week, and of course I jumped at it,” she said.
So, with some paid employment lined up, Wilcox set about looking for other things to fill in her week. Wise Women, which is an employment program run by women for women, was able to match her personality, skills and job preferences with the Rosebud Clothes4U service, a not-for-profit that provides clothes and other needs free of charge for men and women in hardship.
“As soon as I got in touch with Wise Women, who were supportive and helped me get my confidence back, I began to feel better, and in fact now my life is better that it was before I quit,” Wilcox said.
“I was in a bad spot and it was awesome to know people care and that I could get back up and make a difference to others.”
Wilcox now volunteers 15 hours a week at Clothes4U, which she fits in with working 12 hours a week at her old kinder.
Her volunteer work involves helping select quality outfits and accessories for people in need to apply for jobs, attend court, or even just to feel better.
“I realise after speaking to some of the clients that come in, life can go to pot pretty quickly, it nearly did for me, and it does for a lot of people through no fault of their own,” she said.
“Now, I can help them, and that feels great.”
Wise Women business manager Lisa Ryan said Wilcox’s story was common, with older women often needing the confidence and support to get their lives back on track after a personal crisis.
Ryan described Wilcox as “a little pocket rocket” and “full of energy”, who was determined to find a rewarding role.