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.
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.
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
Creating a debt to which you are beholden
Spying, snooping or requiring constant disclosure
Not respecting your need for time alone
Making you ‘earn’ good treatment or trust
Getting you so tired of conflict/an opposing view that you relent
Belittling you for long-held beliefs
Making you feel that you are unworthy of them
Teasing/ridicule has become an uncomfortable undercurrent
Sexual interactions that feel uncomfortable or upsetting afterwards
Unwillingness or inability to hear or consider your viewpoint
Pressuring you to unhealthy behaviours
Thwarting personal and professional goals by making you doubt yourself
Presuming you are guilty until proven innocent
Overactive jealousy, accusations, paranoia
Using guilt as a tool
An overactive scorecard – keeping tally of your interactions
Making acceptance/attraction/caring conditional
Isolating you from family and/or friends
Veiled or overt threats
Chronic criticism – of even small things
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ask for help – really
Keep following through – keep your long-term goal in mind and give yourself a break. It is a process, not an event.
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?
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:
Difficulty in performing everyday tasks
Problems with language
Disorientation to time and place
Poor or decreased judgment
Problems with keeping track of things
Changes in mood or behaviour
Changes in personality
Loss of initiative
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.
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?
Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
Donated money to a charity?
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.
It is mid-winter and mid-morning, and Hilke Piehl’s hair is slightly damp as we greet each other at Montgomery Haven, a Methodist Home retirement village near Northcliff Corner.
“I have been swimming,” she laughs self-consciously, as she agrees to being photographed. This attests to Hilke’s very active life: she swims, plays tennis and gyms every week. She loves gardening and is busily crocheting and knitting for the 67 blankets campaign for Nelson Mandela Day.
Our meeting that blustery July morning has its roots in our chat over a cup of tea at Chartered House seven months earlier. Hilke was looking for ideas whereby she could give back to her local community – despite years of working from home and raising three children, and a full life in retirement. Hilke envisaged helping children to read, or to visit and chat with elderly people in a retirement facility.
Armed with information, Hilke went off to research the best expression for her give-back yearnings.
She found the ideal spot at Montgomery Haven, though she reshaped her idea of sitting in a quiet room reading instead to providing creative and mental stimulation to a group of residents who struggle to be mobile, but who love to be engaged in interesting activities.
I watched one lady colouring in while others were pressing her to finish as they were ready for their bingo game. The books, puzzles and games were purchased by Hilke herself, and she participates with her group of new friends.
“I had been visiting for only a few weeks when I walked in one day, and a few of the residents recognised me and waved and smiled. I was overwhelmed. They knew it was time for bingo or dominoes,” Hilke shares.
“She has brightened the faces here,” said Matron Juliet Chisvo, when Hilke introduced us, “both of residents and staff. We appreciate her visits so much.”
That may be true of everyone at Montgomery Haven, but no less so for Hilke, who has continued this give back for so many months because of the fulfilment she has experienced. “When I go home, even if I am alone there all afternoon, I feel good. I feel loved. I look forward to my visits there. I listen, even when the speaker’s thoughts are jumbled. Sometimes we do activities, but sometimes we just quietly sit together. A hug and a kiss are sometimes all that is needed to lift spirits.”
Hilke acknowledges that her tears do come. “One lady, who has no relatives, was admitted to Olivedale Clinic, and I popped in to visit her a few times. She was so touched that I had taken the time and trouble to comfort her.”
I left both grateful and challenged, waving goodbye to the ladies I had met in my brief visit. Susannah, who leaned heavily on her walker as she made her way to the bingo table, challenged me with her response to my enquiry as to her welfare (in my rusty Afrikaans). “I only know how to be well,” she smiled broadly as she struggled to walk by, “I don’t know how not to be happy and well.”
Example noted, Hilke and Susannah, and gratefully accepted.
4 ways to benefit from the activities and interests you love
1. Find a part-time job
Look for a part-time job that offers the chance to engage with your hobbies and passions on a more regular basis.
For example, if you love plants and being outdoors, you might find it satisfying to work at your local garden centre. If you love reading, volunteer to help children at your local school to read, or sign up with help2read.org or thelinkliteracyproject.co.za – read our client’s story about his involvement here:
If you love dogs and manage them well, offer (and charge for) your services as a doggie day-carer, or a pet- and house-sitter. Some families need someone to visit an aged relative or take him or her out shopping. Other families would appreciate a responsible driver collecting and delivering their children from school to home, and you can make an income.
If you love to cook, create a manageable cooking school in your home – invite friends to learn how to make the best pastries, breads, healthy meals. They can pass the word on, or sign up their domestic workers for a course. You can also become a party chef – so many non-cooks would love to hand over the responsibility of producing a delicious meal. If you just want to help a charity, why not host a “Pay-for-your-Plate” meal, where you charge for the meal and donate the funds to your selected charity?
3. Sell your art or crafts online
Many retirees enjoy hawking their wares at local venues like craft fairs, art shows and farmers markets. It’s a nice way to get out of the house, interact with customers and generate income in the process. But why not expand your reach by taking advantage of online marketplaces as well?
4. Teach your craft
Whether you’re a polished piano player, a witty writer or a master at mahjong, you can likely earn income in retirement by teaching others how to do what you do so well.
If you prefer to stay local, look at teaching opportunities at continuing education programs offered through your town, community colleges or private adult education programs. Or you can offer lessons out of your home. See Gill Orpen offering Bridge lessons in this newsletter.
To take your teaching online, you can deliver classes through your own website or by creating a class using an online teaching platform like LinkedIn’s Lynda.com, Skillshare.com or Udemy.com.
Networking can help, too
Finally, remember that as great as technology is, the best opportunities for work in retirement often surface from everyday networking. So, keep your antennae on alert.
This article contains valuable principles for parents of children of any age, bar very young ones. It is written by Richard Watts, author of ‘Entitlemania’ on adversity as a teaching tool.
Many of us believe the wisdom we distill from surviving life’s obstacle course is best directed at rescuing our kids from the difficulty and heartache of similar growing experiences. More strategic than yesteryear’s helicopter parents, today’s drone parents seek out and destroy perceived impediments to our children’s success. But it is not the successes of life that expose our kid’s uniqueness.
As Michelangelo said of his statue David, “David was always inside the block of marble. It just a matter for the sculptor to hammer and chisel away the pieces that didn’t belong.” Life’s setbacks and sufferings help us to identify and embrace what is most important to us. To separate the valuable from the meaningless. To find our own way. Why would we want any less for our children?
Allow for Stumbles
Most parents love their children. But love is a tricky word. For many parents, love means protecting and making sure no harm comes to our kids. These are well meant efforts. However, I prefer to think of love as an unconditional promise to affirm our kids without interfering in their life course. That used to be called tough love; often as tough for the parent as for the child!
You say: How can I allow my son or daughter to stumble down a path that may be detrimental or destructive to his or her future?
Think of your own life experience: Life took numerous directions your parents may have thought negative. You recall some of these times as being so disorienting and destructive, they caused memories of permanent hurt. Although sometimes painful, these detours provide us contrast, teach discernment, groove a confident path and ingrain the skill of recovery.
Adversity: A Valuable Teaching Tool
Adversity is a teaching tool more valuable than success. Sometimes, wrong choices help our children identify the right ones. And once the right direction is selected, their passion energizes the will to outrun any obstacle because of one thing they have realized: they care deeply about the finish line.
Yet as parents, we often manipulate our child into choices that are preferred by us, with no regard for what our child may have wanted for himself or herself. Parents prefer their children have a certain future, although intuitively they know uncertainty plays a significant role in them finding their path.
The Risk to You
What our children deserve is an authentic story … their story. One they believe in. It might take several attempts at different opportunities. And what is the risk to you? They might fail.
You should respond with encouragement and affirmation, because if we script their lives, they will never identify the inner passion which gives them the self-stamina to drive through adversity. They need to be allowed to stumble, yet recognize with perseverance they will eventually find their way.
One has to be lost to be found. Our children need to determine what personal goal is worth giving their all. Sometimes that requires them to walk into walls. Absent a path of self-discovery, our children will never realize and develop the natural gifts that make the an original instead of a copy.
Rather than raising them to fulfill your expectations, what if you put as much effort into helping them realize their own?
In his project to track how people perceive beauty, from a child to an older person, Louie Schwartzberg records an interview with each. It is the older man’s profound insights that were most striking. Click here to watch the TED Talk.
Here are some gems from the project:
You think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift.
If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.
Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open, that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment.
Open your heart to all these blessings, and let them flow through you, that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you, just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch, just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you, and then it will really be a good day.