Money & Career

How one woman started her first business at 75

After her husband died, Barbara Love Festeryga thought life was winding down. She opens up about the exciting new chapter she began and her views on aging.

Barbara with guests Jessica Beresford (left) and Chatelaine editor Alex Laws

Barbara with guests Jessica Beresford (left) and Chatelaine editor Alex Laws

Life doesn’t have a best-before date. People expect 70-somethings to be all about spoiling their grandchildren and reminding their kids that they don’t know how good they have it.

But while getting older, I haven’t shrunk or started using a walker. As a person, I’ve grown. I don’t wear an adult diaper, and my life hasn’t been whittled down to a nursing home and the smell of old people. I’ve become so much more than I thought I could be.

I was raised in the Depression, when women were expected to be stay-at-home moms, nurses or teachers. If we had dreams of running our own businesses, we kept them to ourselves. We were not risk takers. We were a home-cooked meal, a warm house and laundry on the line. Behind every successful man was a loving wife.

So when my husband died, three years ago, I was lost. I suddenly had to decide on a new direction in life, with a bustling farm and a lonely heart. The house and I both felt empty.

Mindy takes visitors for a ride; Photo by Jessica Hotson

Mindy takes visitors for a ride; Photo by Jessica Hotson

It was partly my grandchildren who gave me the idea of following my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. They love my farm, and I think it’s as much a sanctuary for them as it is for me. What if I could share that sanctuary?

Now I am the proud owner of Bed and Breakfast at the Ranch, in Port Perry, Ont. Starting this business was the best decision I ever made. The productivity helps me keep up my morale. It’s enriched me: I use the barn as a stable and an art gallery, where I display and promote my friends’ artwork; I travel the world through my patrons’ experiences, and I’ve taken risks because I’m not afraid to fail anymore. Hosting gives me a happy glow, and I’ve made an army of friends.

Barbara tends to one of her seven horses; Photo by Alex Laws

Barbara tends to one of her seven horses; Photo by Alex Laws

Turning 75 has opened up another aspect of my life. In the past, I’ve kept quiet about my needs; “I’m fine, I don’t want to inconvenience anybody.” But now I freely state my opinions, and I’m not afraid to want something anymore. I’ve lived long enough to have earned it!

I’m also thankful for everything that’s been given to me. My grandchildren, my animals, still being able to go horseback riding, even having a cellphone. I’ve learned to appreciate what I’ve got and not always pine for what I can’t get back.

The view over her 113-acre farm; Photo by Patrick J. Boening

The view over her 113-acre farm; Photo by Patrick J. Boening

On TV and in the streets, you see people trying to deny their age with Botox, hair dye and plastic surgery. When you’ve lived this long, you learn to be proud of who you are, and instead of just aging on a birthday, you achieve another year. Every stage of life has its pros and cons, and even if you sometimes long to be 10 or 30 years younger, eventually you start to realize that 20 is never coming back and to just be happy where you are. Life doesn’t stop at 60 or even 70. As long as you don’t.

Do you know any groovy grannies who don’t fit the age-old stereotypes? Share your comments below!