The seven women changing the meaning of retirement

Shutterstock.com/ Rich Carey

Retirement means different things to different people. Depending on how financially comfortable you are there are different options available to you. Your physical and mental state also plays a huge factor in determining how you spend your retirement. The third and most important factor is to decide what you actually want to do. We recently learned of seven women who have chosen a very unique retirement path.

Seven women who are retired in New Caledonia have picked a very obscure way to spend their retirement. New Caledonia lies 1600km away from Australia and is a literal paradise. The archipelago is located in the Coral Sea and is home to thousands of species of marine life, beautiful weather, gorgeous beaches, and great food. It is a fantastic place to retire if you can afford it. Yet these seven women, who have given themselves the group name of ‘The Fantastic Grandmas’ are not there purely to relax.

The ladies are aged between 60 and 75 years old and while you would expect them to drink win, lay on the beach, and eat great food all day they are far more active than that. The ladies actually picture venomous snakes for research every day! 

It all started when one of the women was using snorkeling as a way to keep fit in her retirement. A leisurely swim in the ocean was the perfect way to keep her joints mobile. One day she was approached by a local research scientist from the University of Caledonia who explained the need to understand the diversity of marine life in the region. Snakes, in particular, had been difficult to quantify as they usually stay away from people. The majority of species discoveries had happened when they dead snakes washed up to the sea. The researcher had previously tried to find more species and had arrived at a number around 40. The retiree loved the idea and offered to help. She recruited some of her friends and eventually there was a gang of seven.

The ladies set out every day at 8 am and spend two to three hours in the water. They go out with their snorkel gear and a waterproof camera and see what snakes they can capture. Their research has led to a journal publication and highlights the incredible work they are doing. The diligent explorers have now found over 250 species of sea snake showing that before their work the numbers were greatly underestimated. While the research scientists found 40 species in three years, the fantastic grandmas found 160 in two! They conducted hundreds of sea snake surveys during their days on the beach and were able to add an incredible amount to the findings.

The ladies are not just active, they are brave too. Many of these snakes are venomous. One of the snakes found in the water in the area is the Greater Sea Snake. The snake is over five feet long and a single bite could kill a human. The ladies are risking their lives every time they enter the water. The research scientist says that the ladies contribute far more than time though. She argues that they are incredibly intelligent and know exactly what she is looking for. They are able to search the reefs in the area without taking unnecessary risks and that is what is vital in trying to find these species. While it is incredibly valuable to the field, it is not worth their lives.

The ladies are the perfect people to conduct this research and their work has helped to provide a greater understanding of the rich ecosystem that exists in the area of New Caledonia. The Fantastic Grandmas have shown that the stereotypical idea of staying home and knitting once retired is not for everyone. For them, the adventure continues long into retirement.