The key to still be working in your 70s and 80s is beer, prayer and friendship.
That’s the advice from 85-year-old Lloyd Pratt and 70-year-old Des Chiles.
The pair are caretakers at Te Kowhai School, north of Hamilton. They both work part-time hours together during the week.
Lloyd has been the caretaker at the school for 10 years, but after he suffered a stroke, Des came on board.
When Lloyd was fit to return, the school decided to keep them both on.
Four years later, they’re best friends joined at the hip.
“Lloyd’s more prayer and I’m more beer, I think,” Des laughs.
“Oh, we argue and fight all the time,” jokes Lloyd. “No, no we get on good. We’re both the same star sign, you see. It works.”
During the term one school holidays, the pair celebrated their birthdays. The school staff put on a lunch, including a cake with a 155 candle on it.
“The staff are tremendous, the kids are great, and the atmosphere keeps you alive,” Lloyd said.
Every morning Des opens up the workshop, checks the school’s water system, before doing a routine perimeter check around the school property.
Lloyd arrives not long after.
They do everything from changing light bulbs, to mowing the lawns and painting the lines on the sports field.
Des does all the maintenance on the machinery and there’s only one thing they aren’t allowed to do: climb up any ladders.
“Part-time work is just enough,” Des said. “We enjoy it, it gets us out of bed in the morning. I would go crazy if I had to sit at home and do nothing.
“I’ll keep going as long as I can.”
There’s even a family connection – Des’s daughter is married to Lloyd’s son.
Together, they share four grandkids.
“We’re one big happy family,” Des said.
The pair said they plan to work into the 100s, as long as they can keep starting the mowers and blowers.
“I’m working until 100, and Des said he’ll work until 106,” Lloyd said.
Des added, “The staff are great, the kids are good too, noisy, they know how to make a mess, but that keeps us busy.
“I love the job. I couldn’t do it on my own.”