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Celebrating our resident authors on World Book Day

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on April 23, 2024

It is World Book Day today, the 23rd April, so what better time to celebrate some of our talented residents who have published books.

They range from children’s books, to poems, from non-fiction to a first novel - and all are proof that there is no age limit when it comes to creativity!


Jenny Lynch – Murray Halberg Retirement Village

As a former editor of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, Jenny is no stranger to writing, and has a number of books under her belt already.

However, last month she published her debut novel – The Secrets They Kept.

“Why, after a lifetime of working in non-fiction, would I want to start writing a first novel in my mid-eighties?” she laughs.

Jenny says she worked on the book over 15 years and says the inspiration for the story stems back to an old family tale told to her by her grandmother about the tragic death of a distant cousin, something which had haunted her for decades.

“I decided to try to bring her back to life, so to speak, as the basis of my first attempt at fiction.

“Once I began working on the manuscript, I found the world I was creating just ‘took over’.

“The various characters became as real to me as any I have ever encountered both as a journalist and as a person with an enduring curiosity about people and the surprising and sometimes appalling things they do.”

Holding the completed book in her hands for the first time was a great feeling.

“This is special. It’s my first attempt at fiction.

“I’m 85 now. There are other novelists who are my age but not many who have just started,” she says.

Jenny’s advice to any aspiring writers? “Write about what you know and seek constructive critique from a professional person.”

On the topic of whether there will be more fiction forthcoming, Jenny says not in that format.

“It’s taken such a long time to write so in a word no. But I am working on a collection of short stories, a kind of tales of the unexpected, but I’m just working on those quietly, with no deadline!”

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Former NZ Woman’s Weekly editor Jenny Lynch, 85, with her first novel.


Pamela Allen – Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village

The past year has been an emotional rollercoaster for children’s author Pamela Allen, with the loss of her beloved husband, renowned artist Jim Allen, in June 2023.

After the devastating lows that brought, came the thrill of personal recognition when she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2024 Australia Day Honours for her ‘significant service to literature as an author.’

Her career began when Pamela and Jim moved to Sydney in 1978 and she was looking for something to do with her days while her two children were at school.

As a graduate of Elam Art School, and with a few children’s book illustrations under her belt, she thought illustrating would be a good idea. However, on meeting with a publisher, it was suggested she try her hand at writing them as well.

Her first – Mr Archimedes’ Bath – proved popular and Pamela has now written and illustrated more than 50 picture books since 1980.

Her purpose in writing was always to emphasise the shared experience between parent and child.

“I’m on a mission to make parents aware that they have a role to play and it’s to dramatize it and thereby you create a story that belongs to you and your child.

“You’re having a personal experience with your child which is loving, sharing and secure.”

It was to her writing she turned in the wake of Jim’s death: “I decided for my own mental health to do something for Pam which gives me a feeling of worth so I sat down and wrote a book.”

Now, having just turned 90, Pamela is looking forward to this latest book hitting the shelves in July.

It marks the return of one of her most popular characters, Mr McGee. Mr McGee and His Hat will hit the shelves on 2 July.

“I’m trying to make the best of my time and enjoy what I do,” she says.

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Pamela Allen, 90, with one of her popular Mr McGee books.


Jan Beaumont – Logan Campbell Retirement Village

The COVID-19 lockdown unleashed a torrent of poetic creativity in Jan Beaumont, who is now about to publish her second book of poems.

It took just 20 minutes to jot down her witty take on spending lockdown in a retirement village and share it on social media.

Within hours her poem Let’s All Drink to Lockdown went viral, sparking several radio interviews, including the BBC, references in newspapers, her own poetry page on Facebook boasting 1.3K followers and later, once restrictions eased, countless invitations to read her works up and down the country.

How does she explain the secret of her poems’ appeal?

“My poems are simple, rhyming and lighthearted. I write about things that please me and hopefully my readers.”

While writing poems has been a pleasurable activity in itself, publishing and presenting them has been life-changing for Jan.

“I love writing because of the enjoyment it gives others and the enormous amount of friends I’ve made all over the world through my poetry page.

“My speaking presentations, which allow me to meet people in person, have become a huge part of my life and keep me mentally active and really enjoying my retirement."

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A proud Jan Beaumont, 79, signs her first published book of poems.


Leigh Elder – William Sanders Retirement Village

The aptly-named Leigh Elder is working on his third non-fiction book which sets out to help people to age well.

As well as interviewing a few older people to unlock their secrets to longevity and success, Leigh hopes to share a few ways in which people can tweak their diet, exercise and lifestyle to make significant changes to their health and ultimately improve their quality of life.

He has even designed his own exercise routine: “It’s important to regularly work on your balance, agility, fitness (ie cardio), flexibility and strength – or BAFFS, as I call it.”

Covering all five areas, the routine has already had positive feedback from friends in the village who have tried it.

His varied background as first a PE teacher, rest home manager then life and business coach motivated him to use the insights he had gained to help others.

Indeed, his previous best-selling book Eat For Keeps was sparked by the realisation that many people’s goals were around weight loss. In some cases, their type 2 diabetes symptoms were completely reversed.

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Leigh Elder, 80, with his two previous books.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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