Career change at 70 makes Henri live his best life with positive thinking, pilates, farming at 91

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91-year-old macadamia farmer Henri Bader believes that “pension” is a word that should be deleted from the dictionary.

“It’s a terrible word, a redundant word, it’s so negative it’s unbelievable,” Mr Bader says.

“Retiring? It’s a stupid idea because you have all your skills, so use them and enjoy them.”

Sir. Bader is a true testament to the power of positive thinking and constantly pushing boundaries to get the most out of life.

After being “let go” from his job as a sales manager at the age of 70, Mr. Bader decided to embark on a new career as a farmer.

“They saw me as this 70-year-old dodder and decided they wanted to do without me, but that was okay because it didn’t fit with my ideology,” he says.

“I knew I still had a lot of work left in me.”

An elderly man and lady walk their dogs
Henri Bader and his wife Lorraine keep active by walking their farm every day.(ABC North Coast: Hannah Ross)

Sir. Bader bought a piece of bare land in Knockrow in northern NSW and set about building the Letava Estate, taking the word from his native South Africa.

“Everyone thought I was completely crazy when I expressed my opinion that I wanted to go back to my rural roots,” he says.

“They all had to leave their country at the age of 70.”

Letava has grown to be a productive business spanning three properties with around 25,000 macadamia trees.

In the second 50 years of his life, Mr Bader emigrated to Australia, remarried and sent himself to TAFE to gain the knowledge he needed for his new farming venture.

“Life is a matter of attitude,” he says.

“Over the years I have had many, many ups and downs and I have always managed to pick myself up, brush myself off and carry on.

“I’ve used those downtimes as a lesson.”

old man in a farmer's hat
Henri Bader grew up on a farm in South Africa and decided at the age of 70 to return to life on the land.(Provided by: Australian Macadamia Society)

Rushing to a lunch date, Mr. Bader says he also works hard to maintain social connections and his physical health by going to Pilates several times a week.

“I’ve kept fit because I had to build my body for farming,” he says.

“You have to maintain your social awareness, you have to be active and do things, after all we live in a very interesting world.”

Inspire others

Martin Brooke says his friend of 15 years is an inspiration.

“He’s just extraordinary,” says Mr Brooke.

“His brain and his mindset is like a 20-year-old.

“He has this extraordinary enthusiasm for things he’s passionate about, and I just think he’s really special and incredibly positive.”

Sir. Bader says everything he does is for his family, including making woodwork pieces in his “spare time” to give as gifts.

His works include a chair inspired by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, which he learned to make in his late 80s by watching a YouTube video.

“We only use 20 percent of our capabilities, so why not use the other 80 percent?” he says.

“Forget about what you can’t do and focus on what you can do; forget about yesterday and focus on tomorrow.”

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