Age is nothing but a number to Dianne Gibson as she starts new job at 77
A woman who has started a new job at the age of 77 after being approached by a company has said age should not be a barrier to career opportunities.
Bangor-born Dianne Gibson, a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-three, has been appointed hospital liaison advisor with Belfast-based Willis Insurance and Risk Management.
Her full-time role involves ensuring the company's private medical clients are given the best possible care across private hospitals across Northern Ireland.
Mrs Gibson left school at 17 to join the Ulster Bank and has not stopped working since.
Asked about retiring and taking life a little easier, she said: "I'm not made of that mettle. I am so used to working that I could not sit at this stage and spend my time going to coffee mornings.
"I would rather be out there giving the best advice I can give to people."
In her 60 years in the world of work, Mrs Gibson has amassed a wealth of organisational and sales experience in sectors as diverse as insurance, airlines, tobacco, electrical, publishing and healthcare.
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At the age of 50, she was appointed Bupa account manager for Northern Ireland and two years later joined her previous employer, a Belfast insurance broker, where she stayed for 25 years.
Mrs Gibson admitted that when she was applying for the Bupa job, she did not include her age in the application form.
"After they offered me the job, the guy mentioned I hadn't filled in my age and when I said I was 50 he nearly fell off the chair. He was only about 45," she said.
"That was why I didn't fill in that bit, in case they didn't give me an interview."
Mrs Gibson, who has been married to husband David for almost 54 years, added: "I remember when I got the job with Bupa at 50, people used to complain about not being able to get a job at 40.
"But there's no stopping you. You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.
"It's all about positive thought and putting yourself in a situation where you don't let anything beat you."
Mrs Gibson's long career history is dotted with memorable stories, so much so she says she "could write a book".
At one point during the Troubles, she was making deliveries in Londonderry for Gallaher's tobacco factory when two men attempted to hijack the car and steal the cigarettes.
"I just put my foot to the floor and I had two of them on the bonnet," she said.
"I nearly got the sack when I got back to the office because I had been told if anybody stopped the car to get out and give them it."
On another occasion, she spotted a business opening selling stainless steel jewellery and volunteered to be an agent for Northern Ireland, at which she was highly successful.
Her foray into healthcare began in a voluntary capacity, however, when she was just 21.
At that time, she volunteered as public relations officer with the Northern Ireland Leukaemia Research Fund after its founder Olive McDowell lost her teenage daughter to leukaemia.
Although busy with work and being a young mum, she threw herself into fundraising all over Northern Ireland and set up local branches.
It was through the contacts she made within the healthcare sector that Mrs Gibson eventually became involved in the insurance industry.
She also chaired the fundraising Ladies Committee at the Ulster Independent Clinic when it was established, which allowed her to build relationships in the private medical sector.
Asked about what keeps her motivated to continue working in the sector, Mrs Gibson attributed it to a sense of duty to her clients.
"As a family-run business with over 40 years of experience, Willis Insurance and Risk Management shares many of the core values that I believe in," she said.
"I also wanted to join somewhere that I felt would be a good fit for me.
"I have always prided myself in going over and above the norm of what is expected and making sure that I was able to get my clients access to the best possible treatment."
Colin Willis, the company's employee benefits director, said Mrs Gibson's years of expertise and knowledge would "add real value to our client base".
"I must say that Dianne is the best person for the job. She will be an excellent asset to the company and I've no doubt that our clients will agree," he added.