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.

Malaysia awaits

In Malaysia, we stepped, with barely a ripple, into the lives of a young British expat couple teaching at the British International School. They were honeymooning in Greece for six weeks, leaving two entertaining young cats as our hostages in a 12th floor apartment in Petaling Jaya.

Kuala Lumpur is an easy city to live in – much like Johannesburg, but a lot cleaner and with functioning public transport including a modern metro rail network, monorail and free bus services. Grab taxis (their Uber equivalent) are plentiful. The warm and humid weather is not oppressive. Electricity, though expensive, was paid for by our hosts, so we basked in the coolth of the aircons and fans in the condo and had fun working as digital nomads on their efficient Wi-Fi. We had no need to shelter in the many malls where Malaysians hang out in their droves to escape the heat.

Malaysia is safe and relatively affordable. The impression is one of modern shopping centres, high-rise office buildings and condos (we stayed in a 36-story building with swimming pools, tennis courts, gym and its own shop), and golf courses. Malaysians love their golf courses! We were astonished to learn from our hosts that they pay nothing for their water consumption, so perhaps the SA constraints on keeping golf courses green don’t apply.

Our cats needed far less attention than 14-year-old Beamer in Goa. At our hosts’ suggestion, we grabbed opportunities for overnight and weekend trips around the country. (Inter-city travel is cheap in Malaysia.) We went to Melaka, Penang and Langkawi (all on “peninsular” Malaysia though Penang and Langkawi are islands up north near Thailand) and to Sarawak on Borneo.

Both Melaka and Georgetown, Penang, are fascinating World Heritage Sites. The street art, famous in Georgetown, has spread to Melaka – simply wandering around is a fabulous treasure hunt (click here to see all the images of this remarkable and unique street art).

You never know what murals you will find around the next bend as random artists have caught on to the idea and are adding their own touches, some more inspired than others. (In 2012, Penang’s municipal council hired Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, to breathe new life into the atmospheric inner-city Chinese shop-houses. He cleverly built real artifacts like bicycles and trishaws into his murals, creating fabulous photo ops for tourists. Read more at

Those trips taught us about Malaysia, a more subtle culture than in India. A few things stood out:

  • Malaysians are incredibly friendly and interested in who you are, where you’re from and why you’re visiting. They are known for religious and racial harmony and actively welcome people from other countries. Malaysia is one of a handful of countries with special schemes to attract long-term foreign retirees.
  • It is home to an unusually diverse mix of nationalities. Apart from Malaysians, the permanent population includes Chinese, Indians, Koreans along with ex-pats from around the world. We had great fun socialising with a group from Australia and New Zealand who taught us to play Mahjong. Addictive!
  • Food is important to them. They don’t talk about the weather: always the same, there is nothing to say. They ask if you have eaten recently – they routinely eat five meals a day. That opens a discussion about what you had and where, your favourite dishes and what to try. They embrace food from other Asian countries: it’s as easy to get Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Indian meals as Malaysian. Penang modestly calls itself the Food Capital of the World, with some justification.
  • Bahasa Melayu (the Malaysian language) is apparently easy to learn and we enjoyed picking up common words and phrases to entertain Grab drivers and shop assistants who seemed appreciative of our efforts. English, though not the official language, is widely spoken.
  • They are hard-working, a common trait in South-east Asian countries, but love celebrations; everyone happily adopts the different religious holidays – perhaps more public holidays than SA!
  • It is a regulated society where newspapers toe the party line, alcohol is heavily taxed and driving is conservative.

While we were in the region, we explored Borneo, where we saw a different side of Malaysia: exquisitely beautiful jungles, beaches and rocky shorelines … and even warmer hospitality than in Western Borneo, if possible. The highlight was seeing orangutans in their natural habitat.

Of course, we couldn’t miss the opportunity for a return visit to Singapore, a longtime favourite city. It blew us away yet again, particularly with the technological and artistic brilliance of its astonishing visual displays. We arrived just in time for their Night Festival.

We both find travel enriching. We immerse ourselves with wanton curiosity in the culture, languages, food and lifestyle of other communities. As we interact, we become richer, not in pecuniary wealth, but as more informed, understanding and rounded human beings. Perhaps we also leave a tiny bit of ourselves as we engage with a shop assistant or Grab driver enough to brighten their day.

What’s your next adventure?

If you haven’t already taken a turn on the streets decorated with street art, click here.

The Goan exchange

Chartered clients, Andrew and Barbara McGregor, have found a unique way to travel; it allows them to soak up local culture, indulge their love of pets and have an affordable vacation. Here is their account of their stay in Goa with Beamer, the black Labrador.

It’s April. Trees are donning their orange and burgundy attire and the sun disappears behind the Magaliesberg noticeably earlier. Barbara decides that winter at Harties is not a great idea.

Where, she asks, can we go for three months that’s warm? We don’t want to live in hotels – too expensive, and we want to meet locals and experience living in a community, rather than visiting as sight-seeing tourists. But we don’t want to be stuck in one place for too long. And, it must be affordable – our sad ZARs don’t last well on the global stage.

With that bar set, she turns to her best friend for advice. Never one to let her down, Google produces a couple of house- and pet-sitting opportunities – one in India, the other in Malaysia. It’s very simple – get yourself to the house and live in it free, utilities included. One of them even includes a car for our use.

The rest of April is a blur of organising flights, visas, meds, travel insurance and researching the ins and outs of living in foreign countries. All is quite happily done online from home, provided you dodge the Indian visa scammers. Just to add spice, Barbara takes a tumble, resulting in a total hip replacement. Committed to our hosts in India, with tickets booked and paid for, delay is not an option.

Airport and airline staff at ORT, Mahe and Mumbai are amazing, conjuring up extra legroom seats, wheelchairs and queue-jumping porters to smooth and expedite our passage to India. Two nights in Mumbai and a daytime train trip (much more interesting than flying) to Goa completed the first part of our travels. We settled into our home for the next five weeks with Beamer, a delightful black lab. Having recently bid a sad farewell to our 21 year-old Fudge, it is such a pleasure sharing walks and playing fetch with Beamer.

India is such a diverse country (think: over 400 languages) and Goa, the smallest and by far richest state, boasts even more diversity. Having been a Portuguese territory for 450 years, it adds that heritage to the diverse mix of religions, cuisine, place names, sport (soccer is the main sport in Goa, not cricket) and susegad, a word derived from the Portuguese sossegado, meaning quiet. It is used to describe the contented attitude to life, perhaps best described as ‘laid back’, that characterises Goa.

Our beautifully furnished home is in the Goan capital of Panaji (although the locals remain more comfortable with Panjim, its colonial name). Atop a hill that dominates the city, we are welcomed into a small gated community of delightful neighbours, with whom we socialise every evening as the light fades. A five-minute drive in our little smart car takes us into the middle of town, with cars, bicycles, scooters, motorised rickshaws, pedestrians all teeming around each other as if dancing as they move around the city, hooting as they go with no hint of malice.

Indians classify food as “veg” and “non-veg”. Goa has a lot more non-veg (pork and a lot of fish) than most other parts of India. We fell into a mainly veg habit and enjoyed excellent meals at restaurants recommended by locals, and then shopping at the wet market for ingredients and recreating dishes at home for the next few days. We have come to really enjoy the freshness, lightness and flavours of the veg meals we learned to cook in Goa.

Apart from food – for us and Beamer, our days are taken up with walking the narrow streets in Panaji, and driving to the beaches, small towns, farmlands and markets outside of it. Some days, we are content to relax in the coolth of home. It is the end of summer and the monsoon is brewing as the heat and humidity rise.

They say “time flies when you’re having fun”. Having left home not knowing what lay in wait, our time in India disappeared in a flash and, all too soon, we’re bidding our old friend Beamer farewell and heading off to Malaysia.

Don’t miss out on the next leg of the pet-sitting trip for the McGregors: click here to travel to Malaysia and meet two quirky cats.

Ageing with gratitude – it’s all about your attitude

Don’t you just love this time of year? September must be one of my favourite months. I love walking in my garden, watching the new blossoms beginning to sprout and, yes, of course, September is just one month away from October – when the Jacarandas bloom!

Come to think of it, I have many favourite months: December is top of my list. December excites me: it’s family time, it’s fun time and it’s a time of giving. I love that! And then there’s the birthday months. We celebrate birthdays in a big way in our family – each one as joyful as the next. We make sure to spend every birthday together as a family, and it’s definitely not a proper birthday celebration if it’s not filled with fun.

The funny thing is, fun is different for all of us. I love being surrounded by my family and friends – by my people and loved ones. My husband’s idea of fun is creating an experience. For him, there is no better way to celebrate than going away with his family on an adventure, making new memories. But whatever your idea of fun is – make sure you’re having it! And remember to pack a big dollop of enjoyment into your Retiremeant™ suitcase.

I recently had a lovely chat with Yvette Johnson on the Fine Living Classic 1027 show on exactly this topic: How to turn your age into your greatest asset! She asked me if ageing is a daunting transition and wondered if the retirement community suffers from specific ageing stigmas. Well, yes, of course there are certain stigmas that come with ageing, such as unwanted help offered by strangers – or even more negative ones, like rejection. But attitude will get you everywhere – in the most positive sense of all!

Sure, if you are going to stand in front of the mirror and criticise your laugh lines, or the extra weight around your midriff; if you are going to choose to be negative and grumpy – then that’s exactly what might happen. But if you choose gratitude and attitude – then that’s what will bring you pure joy!

I have met so many incredible Retiremeant™ clients who are doing wonderful things in this phase of life – because they choose to make a difference. It’s about standing in front of the mirror and asking: What can I bring to the world? What have I learnt that will truly make a difference?

So, let’s re-visit packing our suitcase into Retiremeant™. What will you bring with you? Be sure to pack everything that works for you first, whether it’s your hobby, your relationships or your favourite music. Here’s what you don’t pack: anything that diminishes your self-love, your values and your sense of gratitude. These may be worries or fears that don’t serve you, habits and beliefs that don’t nurture you, or relationships that don’t bring you joy.

Now that you’ve got extra space in your suitcase, we get to the exciting part – packing something new. Ideally, you’ll be packing in your optimism, your positive attitude and your sense of adventure. Why not also pack something fun for every month of the year? An umbrella for walking in the rain in January; a beach hat for a sunset walk in February; a pen and notebook for writing your wisdom memoirs or a big tub of ice-cream for a midnight snack in June.

“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after- thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” – Nanea Hoffman, blogger and founder of Sweatpants & Coffee.

Wishing you all joy in your Spring packing and unpacking!

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.

Historic end to an amazing trip

In Munich, Tony Emmerson from Trafalgar Tours took us to our hotel where we joined the Sound of Music Tour group comprising people from all over: Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and three other people from South Africa.

Munich Opera House

We visited the Opera House, Ludwigstrasse, Hofbrauhaus and Marienplatz and watched the glockenspiel delights. The Dachau Concentration camp memorial, the first Nazi camp established in Germany, was very sad to see. Dinner was at a hofbrauhaus where the half eisbein and local beer and wine were delicious – no one could finish their portion.

From Munich we were driven by luxury coach to Oberammergau for two nights, stopping off at Neuschwanstein Castle en route. Oberammergau is a beautiful little village where the Passion play has been performed every decade since 1634, fulfilling a vow the villagers made when spared from the Black Plague.

In Seefeld, we rode on a horse-drawn cart through the forest and saw blue berries growing under the trees. Despite being their summer, it was extremely cold, with snow and rain. We jumped onto a speed train to Innsbruck for a visit to the Olympic Ski Resort, the old city and the Golden Roof House where cuckoo clocks are made.

Neuschwanstein Castle

In Salzburg our hotel for two nights was the house in which The Sound of Music was filmed. It is in these huge gardens that the children used to play in The Sound of Music. We visited the Hofburg Palace and Mozart’s house, ate Mozart chocolates, and put a heart-shaped lock on the bridge over the Danube River. The Avenue of Trees was the film location of the famous “I’m 16 going on 17” song, and we strolled to the stairs in the garden, the glass garden house and the iron garden gates seen in the movie. The Salzburg Cathedral also deserves a visit.

For one dinner in Salzburg we did a “B my guest” outing with Trafalgar – a visit to a local farm hosted by a farmer and his wife farm on 7.5 ha of pastures with eight cows, and homemade cheese for sale. The 2.5 ha of woodlands are important to them for the wood in winter. The farmer’s wife sells a wide variety of dried herbs and herbal ointment. Two beehives supply honey and bees’ oxygen to help people allergic to stings, with an apparent 90% success rate.

Then, onto Vienna via the beautiful lakes of Mondsee and a visit to Mondsee Abbey where Captain Von Trapp and Maria were married.

A city tour included the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the breath-taking Baroque Schonbrunn Palace and gardens, and the famous St Stephen’s Cathedral. We attended a Mozart Concert in the Opera House and tasted local foods, wine and beer.

Our last day in Vienna was a city tour in Bratislava, the capital of Slovokia which was behind the iron curtain for many years. We saw the UFO Bridge and spotted a cannon ball stuck in an exterior wall of a house in the old city. Beer is cheaper than water.

We flew home via Doha onto OR Tambo and then finally home after a wonderful trip. We both had contracted pneumonia on the boat. Though we had packed one lot of antibiotics, one bottle of cough mixture and one packet of sinus medication, it was not enough for two of us. Allan ended up at the Doctor onboard and a follow-up visit in Oberammergau at a cost of US$376 US Dollars for the ship and 105 EUROs for the Europe visit. Fortunately, we had insurance cover, but it’s a lesson to be learnt – take medication per person.

If you missed the start of this amazing adventure, click here.

From Jordan to Venice, full steam ahead!

After entering the Red Sea, we docked in Aqaba, Jordan. We did the excursion to Petra, an ancient stone carved city. 2.5 kms through a narrow stone passage leads you to the magnificent Treasury carved in the mountain. This stunning site was followed by a visit to the amphitheater, Royal tombs, library and jail, all carved into the mountains. It was extremely hot there. We skipped the horse carriage ride and donkey ride, as the animals are not very well cared for and we could not support this. Back to the ship, then, to sail away to the Suez Canal.

We joined the convoy at a little town, Suez, our ship being second in the convoy. Each ship has a tug to guide it through the middle of the canal, with one nautical mile between each ship. This trip of 11 hours was spent on our balcony watching pilots boarding the ship. On either side of the canal is Egypt; you can see the boundary fence on the one side between Egypt and Israel – we noted the army soldiers and army vehicles. We exited the canal at Port Said.

The following day was sailing, and we docked in Katakolon, Greece. Katakolon is beautiful, so green and well known for its olives. At the Ancient Olympic city we saw where the Olympic torch is lit for every Olympic Games. A Folklore show was a chance for us to dance and break plates, enjoying the local food and wine in between.

The next stop was the following day in Kotor, Montenegro, the entrance to which is via an extremely beautiful Fjord with snow on the Alps Mountains. We explored Kotor, Budva and the millionaires Isle of Saint Stephen.

From Kotor we sailed to Split, Croatia: a morning excursion of the old town, lunch on the promenade, local shopping and a walk back to the ship.

Our final stop was Venice, where we spent four days. On disembarking, we caught a water taxi from the harbour to Hotel Scandinavia situated at Santa Maria Formosa Square – very central. Venice’s narrow alleyways are actually their pathways, and some are so narrow that they are a mere arm stretch wide. We visited the Saint Marco Square, the palace and the Bridge of Sighs. On our gondolier ride our oarsmen sang and told us about some of the palaces we went passed. We visited the glass-blowing factory on Manuro Island, and many beautiful churches. We met lovely people. Delicious fresh cherries from a seller in the Santa Maria Formosa Square was often our lunch – Venice is rather expensive.

When we took a water taxi from our hotel to the airport, we paid 120 EURO – way too much as the hotel said it would be 105 EURO.

For the next installment of this exciting trip, you land in Munich. Click here to buckle up.

37 days, 12 countries and a lot of fun!

In July, Chartered clients, Allan and Gail Stephen, set sail from Durban to travel to the islands: Reunion, Mauritius, and the Seychelles. Then, crossing the Equator, they sailed onto Jordan, the Suez Canal, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia and Venice. They flew over the Alps to Munich and bussed to Oberammergau. Salzburg was next, and from there to Vienna and last stop before flying home was Bratislava. Read their own account in three interesting installments before you book your own ticket!

Our journey started on the MSC Musica, with four days in Venice on our own, and a flight to Munich, where we joined the Trafalgar tour. It was a trip of a lifetime!

We met two other couples from Port Elizabeth, and enjoyed the shows, games and especially the view from our balcony on the ship. It was lovely watching the departures and dockings from our twelfth deck cabin. Our package included priority boarding, anytime dining, all drinks, internet access, 80 pieces of laundry, a gift and farewell photograph.

Our first stop was La Possession, Reunion, where we spent the day touring the Cirque De Salazie Volcanics Caldera and visiting a vanilla plantation, tasting local food. At Port Louis, Mauritius, we swam with the dolphins (though there were too many boats chasing them) and toured with a guide who pointed out significant sites. It was election time, and we found the canvassing of the political parties fascinating. Shops closed at noon as it was a public holiday.

After two days at sea, we docked at Port Victoria, Seychelles. We visited the St Anne Marina Nature reserve on our first day and The Wild South on the second. We snorkeled in the beautiful clear warm blue ocean. We overnighted there so that the ship’s exterior could be changed as we were passing Somalia: all exterior deck lights were off at night and the ship sailed on GPS; two war vessels in the distance sailing with us with six snipers on board.

The next seven days at sea saw us crossing the Equator to the Northern Hemisphere. This transition was marked by a King Neptune Party where the guests handed the ship’s Captain a huge key to pass through the Equator. The entertainment and catering crews outdid themselves!

To read about the Stephen’s exciting excursions in the Northern Hemisphere, please click here.

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.