Author: Kim Forbes

An open ticket to opportunity

When the McGregors grasped the unusual opportunity to travel via pet-sitting in Goa, India and then, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, they booked a ticket to freedom.

“As we jetted out of South Africa, I had no idea when I would be back,” smiles Andrew. “We knew we would be away for at least three months, but we could easily have made it four.”

For Andrew and his wife, Barbara, their ‘golden years’ as they are known, are a time of freedom, with fewer responsibilities and numerous prospects for learning and adventure. “Don’t delay in pursuing your dreams,” urges Andrew, as he explains how he and Barbara embarked on this novel way to see the world.

Global house-sitting sites will typically include pet-sitting options, pool-tending responsibilities and other elements that make up the requirements for signing up to take the owners’ place for a time. “There are great advantages to living in someone’s home rather than in a hotel,” says Andrew, “not the least of which the authentic experience of the country’s culture and the chance to become friends with your neighbours.”

Andrew explained that they selected a possible location, compiled a profile of who they are, and put together a promotional video as evidence of their suitability to take care of a boisterous Beamer or an insouciant kitty. This is followed by a Skype interview, and once accepted, the retired couple had to decide if they would be able to step into the lives of their absent hosts. “We step into their lives, and we have to be honest with ourselves if we would be happy to do that.”


Eager for new experiences and confident in the resilience of their life experience, the McGregors embraced the adventure. “For example,” adds Andrew, “we love cooking, and Barbara is particularly adept at copying a meal that we will have tasted at a local restaurant (in fact, she makes it better!). We would buy the ingredients at the local wet market and enjoy time recreating the flavours.”

The journey spawned a whole new motivation for the McGregors to encourage a more sustainable life. They noted the almost complete absence of earth-unfriendly packaging that is so pervasive at our South African stores. Andrew has penned a blog entitled: Talking trash and you can read it by clicking here.

While such exotic and unusual travel may not be your cup of teh Tarik, take the challenge to try something out of your comfort zone – who knows what beautiful images of your life you will create.

Now enjoy the street art that the McGregors shared with us.

If you have missed the McGregor’s account of their pet-sitting stays in Goa and Malaysia, click here.

Make family holiday memories

Do you have cherished childhood memories – even just one – of family holidays? Chances are that your recollection isn’t only of a place; it’s also of the people who gathered there and the experiences you shared. You hold these memories with much nostalgia, and now could make new memories with the next generation.

Fond family memories

We were not a family that went on an annual vacation to the same location every year, but there was a hotel in Sea Point where we visited over three or four consecutive years … I think I was seven or eight years old when we first visited.

Memories of Surfcrest Hotel holidays are sensory snapshots: white starched tablecloths and matching napkins; heavy sliver cutlery; printed menus listing three courses; the tantalising smell of soup of day signaling dinner ready to be served.

It was a great adventure for me and my sister. A black-and-white clad waiter urged the kids to eat their toast at breakfast (unlike today, I was a frugal eater in my childhood). The hotel faced the ocean, and, I recall that sensation of being ushered into sleep by the sound of gentle waves.

Whether local or abroad, the trips that my parents planned for us made lifelong memories, and instilled in both my sister and me a love of travel and a spirit of adventure. It’s a legacy I treasure.

If you would like to create a legacy for your family and friends of memorable vacations, here are some ideas to make your holidays a special tradition.

1. Choose the right type of vacation

Take your and your family’s needs and preferences into account. A getaway with your group of girlfriends (this is for you women, of course!) will most likely require a different setting than a family vacation with young children.

Multigenerational holidays are great for creating a legacy for your children to treasure and possibly recreate for the next generation. A young daughter who fished at Dad’s side may one day teach her son or daughter to do the same; a grandparent may introduce succeeding generations to the joy of jigsaw puzzles while holidaying with the family.

Be sensitive, though, to the fact that multigenerational holidays may have a sell-by date for some members. Children may want to be in a more sociable milieu as they enter their teenage years (or certainly one with connectivity!), and older family members may need their familiar comfort as physical limitations set in. You may just limit the time in a more remote location, and spend some of your vacation elsewhere, to suit all tastes.

Some like it hot, and some not

You may find daily walks in the bush invigorating, but does the rest of the family? Be especially aware of locations that are too hot or demanding for either the younger or older generation.

Consider, too, what entertainment is offered at each location, and if one member is likely to be isolated because of the nature of the attractions. Families with small children may appreciate holidaying where there are activities to occupy their energetic offspring, and those with babies may need accommodation that cater to their particular needs.

Some like a frenetic pace, and others’ idea of a vacation may be completely slowing down. Allow some freedom for independent activities so that those who want some solitude can recharge alone, and those who love to socialise can do so.

2. Create opportunities for connection

As teens become more independent, you may find that they spend holiday time away from the rest of the family. Older people may go to sleep earlier, and rise earlier.

Consider how you can make some time together sacrosanct. Perhaps dinners are always together. Or, if you are away over Christmas, for example, make that Christmas morning a ritual – a special breakfast, carol singing, opening presents … whatever suits your family.

Perhaps there is an activity that you can plan each year that is non-negotiable, but also fun. A games evening, completing a puzzle together, having a “Table-Talk” evening or meal where you share with each other around a particular topic. Maybe baking together, or taking that first swim together.
Isolation is a reality for many older people, and keeping this connection strong makes for healthier and happier older members of our families.

3. Be creative

Not all vacations have to be in an exotic setting. A weekend together where you spend time in the country may work better for a frail older member of the family. Having grandparents stay over and children camping in the garden is another way of creating memories and connection. How about a “Come Dine with Me” type of dinner where the children are the chefs or hosts?

Give yourself the freedom to find out what will work. There is no right or wrong, just good intention to create stronger family ties and a legacy of fond memories of those we love.

Finding the humour in ageing

The New 60 is a comic strip created by two advertising industry veterans to show the lighter side of being over 60 – not always an easy time of life, but we are encouraged to laugh at ourselves, our friends and our situations through these sketches.

Enjoy these, and click here if you want to read the full article.

Tips for a longer, healthier, happier life

You have heard the phrase: “Your health is your wealth”, yet it is seldom applied to young people. That is because, as we know, it is particularly (but not exclusively) in our latter years that health issues are most likely to plague us.

So it’s understandable that literature aimed at the older generation focuses on wellness: physical, mental, emotional and psychological.

AARP website features an article: Your Guide to a Healthier, Happier, Longer Life, listing 99 ways to achieve this.

For you, our readers, I have distilled these inspiring tips to the top 20 – those we regard as most helpful towards creating a happy and healthy life.

The Top 20

  1. Throw that party
    Make it your own kind of party, one you would like. Book it now and find deep joy in the planning: guest list, invitation, menu, venue, music. Cherish hanging out with your tribe. Isolation has a negative effect on your health.
  2. Say some hard goodbyes
    A study found that people in positive close relationships may have a lower risk of heart disease than those who are entangled in negative ones.
  3. Do something
    Anything. A study of 334,000 Europeans found the biggest beneficiaries of exercise were those who went from inactive to moderately inactive (16 -30% drop in death risk). See, even a little activity benefits you.
  4. Get enough sleep
    A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found the effect of sleep deprivation on the body mimicked the aging process on a cellular level, causing cognitive decline and impaired memory. A Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience study found an association between regular slumber patterns in older adults and longevity. Prioritise your sleep routine – respect the z’s.
  5. But not too much sleep
    Another study found those who slept more than 10 hours a night had a 30% higher risk of early death.
  6. Hang around kids
    When older adults share experience and knowledge with the young, they gain emotional satisfaction and feelings of fulfilment, according to a Stanford Center for Longevity report.
  7. Kick around a bucket-list
    One study showed that a bucket list isn’t just for kicks—it can make end-of-life planning easier, as all parties, including family and physicians, will be aware of your life’s priorities.
  8. Dust off that library card
    A study of 3,635 older adults found that book readers had a 23-month survival advantage and 20 percent lower mortality risk compared with non-readers. Reading was protective, regardless of gender, education or health.
  9. Put your best skills to the test — often
    People who achieve a state of “flow” with their talents — total immersion, time disappears, no critical voice interferes — have greater long-term happiness than those who don’t. Flow is also predictive of high performance: winning athletes experience more flow than losing ones.
  10. Define what drives you
    Research has shown that purposeful people live longer than their counterparts.
  11. Raise your hand
    Folks over 50 who volunteered at least 200 hours in the past year experienced mental health benefits and were less likely to develop hypertension, a Carnegie Mellon University study reveals.
  12. …But only if you really want to
    Half-hearted volunteer work isn’t healthy. A Boston College study found that people age 50 and older who had “low or medium” engagement in their work reported even lower well-being than folks who had zero engagement.
  13. Find your bridge
    A new part-time or “bridge” job in retirement — either in or out of your field — has been associated with fewer major diseases and physical limitations, and better mental health.
  14. Think young
    A study of nearly 6,500 subjects age 52 or older found those who felt younger than their years had a mortality rate of 14.3 percent; those who felt older had a rate of 24.6 percent.
  15. Don’t ignore that little pain
    A 2015 study found that more than half of those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest had ignored warning signs. Studies show that when cancer patients ignored symptoms, it was often because they were busy, or didn’t want to make a fuss or waste a doctor’s time.
  16. Ask yourself: Do I react well to stress?
    If not, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach. Research shows big links among chronic stress, chronic inflammation and stress-related diseases.
  17. Use your smartphone’s full potential
    Your phone has the power to keep you connected and to be a data centre for your health. Patient-generated health data — info from your phone or wearable devices — can now be used to customise medical care. Ask your doctor what kind of data or apps might be useful.
  18. Thank your spouse or partner
    Marriage or long-term partnerships have been linked to better health and longer life for a variety of reasons — not the least of which is, you lasted all these years without killing each other.
  19. Be a caregiver for yourself, too
    Older adults providing care to loved ones and experiencing regular bouts of ‘caregiver strain’ had a 63% higher mortality risk than non-caregivers, according to a study in the journal JAMA. If you’re primarily responsible for the needs of a parent or spouse, be sure to give yourself care, too.
  20. Have your own back
    Strengthen your core and fortify your back as you age with plank-style exercises. A study of 4,400 people 70 and older found that staying free of chronic back pain can increase life expectancy by 13%.

You may notice that I have selected these items around the Wheel of Balance for a life that is not only happy and healthy, but also holistic and balanced.

This summer, embrace joy in the moment

Spring is nibbling away at the cold corners of winter today. I don’t know about you, but the newly warm days and the sound of birdsong always give me a renewed sense of hope and energy, and I look forward to each day with fresh purpose and joy. The words of writer, Iris Murdoch, hold the key.

While we live in stressful times, there is much serenity to be won back by recognising that much is out of our control, and we are responsible for creating our own happiness, even within challenging circumstances.
Easier said than done? Of course, especially when we are facing challenging circumstances. Here are some useful and very do-able tips that I have come across in my reading, and are applying now.

1. Happiness is a choice

Without ignoring the realities of life, you can choose to include those things in your life that give you joy. Is it chats with friends over a meal? Could it be a creative process, like painting or baking or dancing or writing? Is it sinking your hands into the soil and enjoying the colourful and fragrant result of your labours? Might it be that time that you spend in your community, helping those less fortunate?

Do you need to exclude those things that cause you unhappiness? For me, it is replaying past failures in my head, and rather allowing myself imperfections. For you, it may be relinquishing the longing for a different life than the one you have right now. Possibly, it is making peace with loss of some kind.

Give yourself permission to take that nap, to have that glass of wine, to go for that spa treatment, to have a day with no other purpose but to read your book, to take photographs that aren’t perfect.

2. Know that tomorrow is not guaranteed – make the time

We have seen clients who, working hard in their careers still, put all their dreams on hold “until retirement”. So, no long vacations, limited evenings out, snatched times together or with friends and family. Yes, they longed for more fun, more meaningful social times, less stress and squeezing as much productivity out of a day as possible. The garden could wait. That birthday celebration would be for another landmark occasion. The visit to overseas family will happen when finances are healthier.

And, then, life intruded. A negative diagnosis, increasingly limited physical capacity, a retrenchment, a divorce, a loss of a friend or family member, a child returning home and finances being constrained … and that resolve to live a full life quakes in the face of these spectres.

Choose happiness now … even in smaller bites.

3. Decide what really matters

As an adjunct to the first point, deciding what matters means that you live in line with your values.

Does your friend’s perceived better life – a renovated home, family close by, a seaside cottage, frequent exotic travels, a kinder spouse, greater financial freedom – really have to translate into discontent for you? Whom are you choosing to compare yourself with?

Could you choose gratitude instead?

Perhaps now is the day to start that gratitude journal.

Today, sit in your garden, take your gratitude journal and let go of self-judgement as you write … no should haves, no musts, no I wish …

Then, based on your values, where are you going to send your thoughts each time you feel any emotions that draw you away from joy?

It’s a life of no regrets you are aiming for … and days of joy.

Keep yourself socially connected as you age

I have always prided myself on being comfortable in my own company. I realise, though, that this has always been a choice – whenever I wanted, I could call up a friend to make a date.

Now, circumstances have changed: a good friend has moved to Kenya, my sister has been in New Zealand for almost twenty years, and four friends are grieving the loss of a loved one. I long to connect with each of them, loving the times in which we can just savour each other’s company. I am also enjoying the energy of new and revived friendships.

In a Next Avenue blog, Wendy Sue Knecht offers a few helpful tips in finding love and friendship as we get older. See what is of value for you.

1. Re-frame old mindsets

Knecht believes that “with the right mindset, it is easier to find love and friendship”.
The transition for Knecht from singleness to marriage at age 47 was not a difficult one. She says, “Having more self-knowledge made it easier to feel open to new experiences. Being set in my ways was a choice and served no purpose. I made a conscious decision not to be ‘stuck’ in a rigid mindset.”

2. Free others and yourself from perfection

As we age, we learn to accept our flaws, Knecht contends, and this engenders confidence. Youth often holds to strict standards for all to live up to. “Once you come to accept your own faults and imperfections, it is easier to accept other people for who they are. Not only do I not expect anyone to be perfect, I would hate for anyone to expect that of me,” she says.

3. Others don’t define you if you define yourself

Remember those adolescent years when your greatest need was to feel accepted? The best way to do it was to fit in and look like the others as much as possible.
“Once we have the self-assurance of age, it is no longer necessary to find a partner or a friend to define ourselves. You can appreciate others more fully when you realize they are not a reflection of you,” Knecht claims. Learn to listen without judgement, and you can appreciate varying viewpoints and tastes.

4. Embrace quirkiness and celebrate difference

Allowing yourself to be an original is so liberating. Have fun and allow yourself to enjoy a sense of humour. If your friend dresses up and you love your jeans, make it a shared joke between you. Appreciate differences and embrace each one’s uniqueness. I learnt this on a recent Bucket Wheel family vacation to Ireland. I was desperate for all to see the Book of Kells and was disappointed to find I was the only fan. I had to accept that, for the rest of the family, standing in a queue to see a book was not a priority (and kissing a stone was not mine!).

5. Keep an open mind

“Keeping an open mind is key to finding new friends and love as you get older. Never say never; love and friendship could be just around the corner,” Knecht enthuses.

Think of your happiest times – you will find that a good proportion of them were spent with lovely friends.

Make your anger a visitor not a resident

Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, highlights the two kinds of anger in this blog – I found the distinction useful. He reminds us that anger needs to be processed in order for us to live whole and healthy lives.

Why do people get angry? I believe we get angry when our sense of “right” is violated. When this happens, it can lead us to one of two types of anger:

Definitive anger: when someone has wronged us.
Distorted anger: when things didn’t go our way.

Much of the anger people experience is distorted anger. The traffic moved slowly. Our spouse didn’t do things the way we wanted. This kind of anger, however, can still be very intense and must be processed. Ask yourself, “Would it be helpful if I shared my anger with someone? In sharing it, might I improve things for everyone? If not, should I simply let it go?”

Whatever you do, do something positive. Don’t hold your anger inside. Anger was meant to a visitor, not a resident. Processing your anger in a positive way will lead you toward freedom, emotional health, and relational stability.

Did you know that anger is considered a secondary emotion?

Anger is often triggered by something else—usually fear or sadness. So when you feel angry, it’s important to dig down to the true, primary emotion. Why do you feel angry? What are you really feeling?
For example, Bailey might lash out at her friend Libby when she finds out Libby is moving. What’s underneath the anger? Sadness. She’ll miss her.

When Jose’s frustration over his group project at work reaches an angry boiling point, he has to step back to see what’s underneath the rage. Upon investigation, he realizes it stems from his fear that his group won’t take the project seriously and he’ll get stuck doing all the work.
When it comes to anger, there’s often more to the story.

When your partner is controlling …

A controlling partner creates unhealthy patterns that are often difficult to detect. A Psychology Today article highlights warning signs and offers some advice in dealing with the behaviour.

Psychologist Andrea Bonior identifies signs of a controlling partner in her article entitled “20 signs your partner is controlling” (Psychology Today, 2015). The danger, she says, is that we often have the wrong stereotype in mind: “ … the grumpy bully … physically aggressive … openly berates and belittles … commands their partner how to dress.”

Bonior attributes the controlling behaviour to emotional fragility and heightened vulnerability on the part of the controller. While not all controlling behaviour is abusive, it can lead to a rather unhealthy relationship, especially when the controlled person counts themselves lucky to be the recipient of such ‘care’ or ‘concern’, or considers themselves to be, at least in part, responsible for the unhealthy state of the relationship. It may be that neither the controller nor controlled person is aware of the complexity of the manipulative behaviour.

What to watch out for

  1. Creating a debt to which you are beholden
  2. Spying, snooping or requiring constant disclosure
  3. Not respecting your need for time alone
  4. Making you ‘earn’ good treatment or trust
  5. Getting you so tired of conflict/an opposing view that you relent
  6. Belittling you for long-held beliefs
  7. Making you feel that you are unworthy of them
  8. Teasing/ridicule has become an uncomfortable undercurrent
  9. Sexual interactions that feel uncomfortable or upsetting afterwards
  10. Unwillingness or inability to hear or consider your viewpoint
  11. Pressuring you to unhealthy behaviours
  12. Thwarting personal and professional goals by making you doubt yourself
  13. Presuming you are guilty until proven innocent
  14. Overactive jealousy, accusations, paranoia
  15. Using guilt as a tool
  16. An overactive scorecard – keeping tally of your interactions
  17. Making acceptance/attraction/caring conditional
  18. Isolating you from family and/or friends
  19. Veiled or overt threats
  20. Chronic criticism – of even small things

Breaking free

  1. Assess your level of safety: for many, the end of a relationship is a clean break; for others, it may signal danger, says Bonior. Anger and grief may push a controlling partner to threatening behaviour, largely owing to their sense of lack of control. Have a safety plan.
  2. Assemble your support system: It may be your spouse has isolated you or you may have presented a healthier version of your relationship to friends and family. You may be ashamed to relay reality. “It is crucial, if you want to make changes, you strengthen your ties with trustworthy friends and family who can help you through this process,” Bonior advises.
  3. Map out different paths and scenarios: Be specific about short- and long-term goals. Will you stay or go? If you stay, will you go for counselling? Are there ways to make changes? If you leave, what are your financial plans? Where will you stay? “The more you can anticipate the logistical challenges of changes you’re hoping to embark on, the less likely they are to halt the process. Preparedness and predictability equal power,” adds Bonior.
  4. Practise self-care
  5. Understand feelings can be mixed: It’s not uncommon for a person to be motivated to leave or even just have a real conversation with a partner about problematic behaviour. Then, the next morning, things feel much scarier. Or, they determine to leave the unhealthy relationship, and their partner does something so loving that they have second thoughts. The more you anticipate this, the more likely you are to follow through with your original plan.
  6. Ask for help – really
  7. Keep following through – keep your long-term goal in mind and give yourself a break. It is a process, not an event.

How to care for a loved one diagnosed with Dementia

A Dementia diagnosis can send a family into a tailspin. Besides the emotional toll on both the person diagnosed and their family, there are far-reaching legal and financial consequences to be dealt with.

The incidence of Dementia is growing globally, and, as we age, the chances of being affected by the condition increase. Dementia initially manifests in memory loss, difficulty in making simple decisions and inhibited communication skills – confusing and frustrating for the person and his family. As this debilitating disease progresses, co-ordination is affected, even swallowing. Family relationships come under strain with mood swings, and unpredictable and aggressive speech and behaviour.

What is the next step for a family in which a member is diagnosed with Dementia?

Call on resources for help

Don’t be afraid to get help. There are many organisations offering advice, support and services: Dementia SA (www.dementiasa.org), SA Federation for Mental Health (www.safmh.org.za) for legal and financial advice, and Alzheimer’s South Africa (www.alzheimers.org.za).

The CareCompany’s services include companion care, nursing care, home care, dementia care, hospital to home care. They offer a free face-to-face or telephonic consultation to guide you as you seek support – they are in Cape Town. This is followed by an assessment visit and a care plan (www.carecompany.co.za).

The Livewell Villages (Bryanston and Somerset West) offer regular information sessions: on 28 August, in Somerset West, Rose Polkey will speak on: “Dementia from a spouse’s perspective”. You can subscribe to the Livewell newsletter for regular relevant articles (www.livewell.care).

As a matter of urgency, take some financial and legal advice from experts. This is a priority before a formal medical diagnosis is made, as financial and legal decisions may be taken out of the family’s hands if a plan has not been put in place. Check wills, trusts and power of attorney, so that the person with the onset of Dementia can still have input. This is why early detection is important.

Some checks before diagnosis

How do you know that forgetfulness is not just a natural symptom of ageing? Dementia SA identifies 10 early symptoms of Dementia:

  1. Memory loss
  2. Difficulty in performing everyday tasks
  3. Problems with language
  4. Disorientation to time and place
  5. Poor or decreased judgment
  6. Problems with keeping track of things
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Changes in mood or behaviour
  9. Changes in personality
  10. Loss of initiative

Financial considerations

In her article entitled “The difficult reality of living with Dementia”, Sylvia Gruber (The South African, 2016) cites the costs of care: 24/7 in-home care can cost R25k-R30k per month, or R20k-R25k in retirement villages, in addition to base living fees. Add on nursing and medication fees, and you are looking at a substantial change in your financial plan.

Gruber comments: “There is a heated debate in South Africa for medical aids to include dementia as a disease that should be included on the prescribed minimum benefits (PMB) list.”

Caring for the carer

Ensure that you have a support system. If family is far, draw on friends’ help and experts’ services. Be kind to yourself. You may have to relinquish the notion (if you are holding onto it), that home is best. Facilities are set up to provide a safer and more comfortable environment than you can often offer. If you do opt for home care, consider the changes you need to make to the structure of your home to avoid accidents. You need to consider if you can cope with the demands of caring for your spouse or family member.

Dementia in the news …

Retirementor, Alan Hosking, drew our attention to this Wits study on scientists slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s: click here.

How do South Africans rate on giving and giving back?

Each year, Americans set aside the fourth Thursday of November to give thanks for what they have. This expression of gratitude often takes the form of a day with families, “eating more than we should, and watching a lot of football”, says Mitch Anthony, US Financial Life Planner.

He notes, though, that “being thankful is more than food, football or even family – it’s sharing your blessings with others.”

The CAF World Giving index asks three questions to determine how community-conscious and generous a nation is. Have you done any of the following in the past month?

  1. Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
  2. Donated money to a charity?
  3. Volunteered your time to an organisation?

The 2018 Index shows a fall in the most generous of the developed countries. But, across Africa, giving is on the increase, and South African ranks 24th out of the 138 countries surveyed. We score higher on helping strangers and volunteering time, than on giving money – since much of our population struggles to survive on the money they have.

Sir John Low, Chief Executive of Charities Aid Foundation reports:

“For eight years, the CAF World Giving Index has given unique insight into generosity around the world and chronicling trends in giving across continents and cultures worldwide.

Its aim is simple: to provoke debate and encourage people, policymakers and civil society to think about what drives giving, and put in place policies to grow the culture of giving worldwide.

The questions that make up the Index focus on the universal – do we give money or time or do we help strangers in need. It confounds traditional views of the link between wealth and generosity, confirming what we all surely know: that giving is about spirit and inner motivation, not about financial means.”

At Chartered Wealth Solutions, we hold to the belief that giving to our communities – whether through volunteering time or skills or money – is an essential ingredient in creating a contented life … as our clients’ stories attest. Enjoy reading those stories in this newsletter.

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