Australia should embrace ageing

Maggie Beer
Maggie Beer is working hard to improve aged care

Maggie Beer at 76 is a flag-bearer for Australia’s seniors, pouring-in her skills, time and money for aged care.

The multi-gonged television favourite arrives in Margaret River in November as she shoulders a phenomenal workload.

Maggie will be joining a feast of gourmet cooks and chefs, but the grandmother isn’t here for the gourmet food or media exposure.

“I hope to be hosting a dinner to raise funds for my foundation. That was my lure to get me over there,” she laughs.

Maggie’s reach, in support of her non-profit foundation for the aged, is spread across Australia. And it is only one arm of the self-taught cook who left school a 14.

Maggie Beer, corporate speaker, trainer, motivator and author, is also a company – Maggie Beer Products.

“I’m chaotic but I’m not stressed. It’s there. I must do it. I can do it and I must do it,” she tells me from Adelaide.

Into the evening, Maggie still hasn’t finished her day’s commitments, clearing the decks before heading, again, to Sydney where she’s filming 11 educational episodes of a tailored guide for cooks and chefs working in aged care.

“It’s a training module that hopefully will go into 2,500 aged care homes. No-one else is doing it. Training for this, for complexities of food in aged care, is not available,” says Maggie who is funded by her own foundation.

Simon Bryant, Maggie’s co-host on ABC’s former cooking program, The Cook and the Chef, is a participant in the training module.

The importance of healthy food in aged care, including those with dementia, was raised in the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care which revealed shockingly poor food and cooking standards in some homes.

Along with Perth’s Alzheimer’s expert, Professor Ralph Martins, Maggie produced a book, Maggie’s Recipes for Life, with 200 recipes aimed at reducing dementia risks. The pair also contributed to an illustrated children’s book telling a story about dementia.

Getting old and ageing well is within all our grasps but only if we all embrace it.

Maggie’s endeavours earned her a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012 – for service to the tourism and hospitality industries as a cook, restaurateur and author, and to the promotion of Australian produce and cuisine. She was Senior Australian of the Year in 2010.

In 2016, self-made Maggie was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia for her achievements in tourism and hospitality and to the promotion of Australian produce and cuisine.

Maggie gets results, but she says her attempts at improving care of the aged is a hurdle.

“It’s the biggest job I’ve ever tried to do. You try and change a culture,” she said.

Maggie built a successful company carrying her brands of natural foods, wines and products but recently sold it.

“I’m staying on the company board to oversee quality,” she adds.

With husband Colin, Maggie remains anchored to their Barossa Valley property with her much-loved garden, vines, olives and small orchard. Their famous Pheasant Farm Restaurant flourishes. 

Maggie says her recipe for life is: “being involved, loving life, having beautiful food every day, life-sharing, at a table with friends and family. Colin would like me to step back a bit. I’m not home as much as I should be,” she said.

With her voice being heard across Australia, Maggie keeps using it. And she stays committed to her local choir.

“It’s just joy,” Maggie says, “a good food life brings everything else together. Being connected is all-encompassing, the pleasure and the environment.”

With her fund-raising corporate talks and business interests, Maggie and Colin pour their money into the foundation. 

“That’s my contribution. We are rich in property, it’s our legacy for our family. What’s important is what we all do for each other. We all have a responsibility.

“We must be aware of those who are lonely and have lost their will to cook in their own homes. The question for our board is how can we help more? There’s a need for a lot of society.

“My focus is on seniors. Getting old and ageing well is within all our grasps but only if we all embrace it,” she said.

Maggie says there is only one gap in her life. She doesn’t have a dog. It is seven years since they lost German shepherd, Muck.

“I’m a dog person. I’ve always had dogs but with all the travel, I can’t. They need love and attention,” she said.