At 70 years old, Neysa King has spent the past year working as a “new grad nurse” – a program for early-career nurses in their first year out of university.

She’s bursting with passion as she speaks about her new vocation and the variety of avenues in nursing she can now pursue. 

“Then I laugh at myself as I have to remind myself that at best, I probably only have seven to eight years before my body says no more,” Neysa says. 

This is what she describes as her “retirement career”.

“It just fits. It just hit my chest like, that’s the right thing, that’s what will light my fire,” Neysa says. 

“Nursing involves a lot of challenging problem solving and critical thinking … I like that aspect.

The 70-year-old graduate nurse works with peers decades her junior.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

“When I can help people with such basic and often intimate tasks such as showering, toileting and dressing and doing it in a way that preserves their dignity and self-respect … that is amazingly satisfying and humbling.”

An unexpected journey

Even up until a few years ago, this isn’t what Neysa expected her life to look like at 70.

She’d spent most of her working life in the corporate world, fielding 2am calls from America and travelling internationally for multinationals.

She was also raising her son, as well as caring for her husband, Tony, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was in his early 50s.

His death came sooner than expected, in 2016, when Neysa was 63. 

Neysa with her late husband, Tony(Supplied)

“And then, about six months afterwards, I had a medical problem,” Neysa recalls.

It was pancreatic cancer. 

“That was a lightning bolt,” Neysa said.

“It’s a death knell to most people.”

With major surgery on the way and a long recovery ahead, Neysa retired from her high-flying career.

After about 18 months, she’d made a full recovery, and found herself in her mid 60s, healthy, and with more time on her hands than she’d ever had before. 

Restless in retirement

“I did the classical retirement thing: spent far too much money and did a bunch of travel,” she says. 

Then, she started thinking about her next chapter.

“I’d been given this incredible gift of having my life ahead of me,” she says. 

“All of a sudden I have this epiphany moment. I realised, I’m only 67, I can’t sit and wait for God.”

Neysa began reflecting on the different careers she’d had in her life, each lasting for 12 to 15 years. There was time to slot in another.

Nursing had been Neysa’s first career in the 1970s and 80s, and with less demands on her income, she was drawn back to it.

“Even if it’s only for a few minutes, you touched people’s lives, you made a difference.”

So, 30 years out of the game, she returned to university to become qualified. 

Fitting in at uni at 67

Neysa says she stood out next to her university peers, most of whom were in their 20s.

“I felt like a zit on a nose,” she reflects.

“People would be wondering, what is this old lady doing here?”

But within weeks, Neysa was going to drinks after lectures.

“I was just part of the gang,” she says.

In her first year out of university, Neysa moved from Adelaide to Alice Springs for their graduate nursing program. 

Neysa has come back to nursing after 30 years out of the field.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

“It’s been invigorating and rejuvenating,” she says.

Recently, she was caring for a challenging patient with advanced dementia who couldn’t speak English.

“She put her arm around my waist, and she just put her head on my shoulder,” Neysa says.

Making people feel safe was what she had come back to nursing to do.

“She knew that I cared,” Neysa says.

A time for adventure

Before Neysa starts her next rotation, she’ll be riding a motorbike across the Nullarbor with her sister.

She’s passionate that life after 65 is a time for new adventures.  

Neysa started riding motorbikes in her 60s.(Supplied)

“In 2016 my future looked bleak,” Neysa says. 

“Now I only see a future of ongoing learning, enjoyment, new friendships, adventure and most importantly giving back.

“It is definitely not a time for buying a new couch.”