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Review of To Walk It Is To See It by Kathy Elkind

(1 Couple, 98 Days, 1400 Miles on Europe’s GR5)
Reviewed by Kathy Wilson

After American Kathy Elkind and her husband Jim moved to Vermont and became empty nesters, they decided to plan a grand walking adventure. In her late fifties and moderately fit, Kathy selected the Grande Randonnée Cinq (GR5) route, starting in Hoek van Holland in The Netherlands and finishing in Nice, France, a distance of 2300 kilometres. Her rationale was that this route would be more refined than rugged, offering a better chance of her making it through to the end!

The official trail winds through Europe’s Vosges, Jura and the Alps mountain ranges, so it is not just a leisurely stroll. On longer days, they walked up to 37 km, overnighting in gîtes (simple country lodgings for travellers) or occasionally a hotel as a treat and a chance to rest up in comfort. At times, kind strangers stepped in to find them somewhere to sleep. Along the way, they befriended different local walkers for the brief time that they had a path and destination in common.

Kathy’s richly descriptive writing invites you along for the walk. She brings the scenery, villages, and walking conditions to life and shares her highs and lows as the three-month trek unfolds.

For Kathy, walking the GR5 was also a journey of introspection and discovering who she was as she approached her sixth decade. She looks back on her struggles with dyslexia (that she became a teacher and wrote this book is a huge achievement) and comfort eating, and reflects on her 28-year marriage – did she marry Jim for the right reasons, and how compatible are they, particularly as they enter a new phase of their lives? Seemingly, both she and Jim came away with more clarity and connection, thanks to that Alpine air!

It is an enjoyable read that may inspire sedentary individuals to rush out and buy their first pair of sturdy walking shoes.

A copy of To Walk It Is To See It by Kathy Elkind is available in the Chartered client library for short-term loan.

Riding into a New Life: From Jozi to George

Dreaming of escaping the Johannesburg hustle for open roads and scenic vistas, Chartered clients Huida and Granville set out on a motorcycle trip with a twist: Granville had a secret agenda – to scout potential semigration destinations. Little did they know, George would capture their hearts with its charm, natural beauty, and a hidden gem of a house waiting to be discovered.

Their initial odyssey wound through towns like Prince Albert and Tulbagh, each offering unique flavours of life. While Port Owen’s remoteness didn’t resonate, Gordons Bay, a place they loved, didn’t offer any houses that suited them. Montagu’s historical allure tempted them, but having a Woolworths within a 5km radius remained a dealbreaker for Huida.

Reaching George, they met up with friends who had already made the leap, and their glowing experiences about George ignited a spark. The town’s clean, friendly atmosphere left a positive impression. But the true magic unfolded on a breathtaking motorbike ride up Outeniqua Pass. Lush valleys, ancient forests, and panoramic vistas unfolded with each turn, sealing their desire for a change.

Back in Johannesburg, the “what if?” echoed. Inspired by a vision of their ideal home and a couple they met on their travels encouraging a “just do it!” attitude, they took on the challenge. The search for their perfect George haven began.

Despite initial hiccups – a damp property and limited options – they persevered. A serendipitous discovery led them to a magnificent house in Welgelegen Estate, ticking all the boxes, even the motorbike-friendly location.

With an accepted offer and their Johannesburg house sold, their semigration dream materialised. Moving in November 2022, the timing was perfect. Today, nestled in their haven, they’ve embraced the George lifestyle, made new friends, and explored the Garden Route’s wonders.

Their journey is a testament to open hearts, serendipity, and the courage to take a leap of faith, proving that sometimes, the best destinations are discovered on two wheels and with an open mind.

Conversation Starters: Are You Avoiding ‘The Talk’ About End-of-Life Plans?

For many families, the mere thought of discussing end-of-life plans sends shivers down their spines. Laden with anxieties and unspoken worries, these conversations often get pushed aside, creating an even heavier burden down the line. Parents might grapple with a mix of emotions – fear, anxiety, even guilt at needing support or burdening their children. Children, in turn, may worry about upsetting their parents by raising the topic. But here’s the truth: discussing end-of-life plans isn’t a morbid exercise; it’s a gift of clarity and peace of mind for everyone involved.

Let’s explore the contrasting stories of two clients and the valuable lessons they offer.

Client A: Open Dialogue

Sarah and her parents have had open conversations about their wishes for the future. Legal documents are in order, care preferences shared, and even funeral plans discussed. This transparency eliminates last-minute scrambling, eases anxieties, and, most importantly, allows Sarah to cherish each present moment with her parents, free from the weight of unknowns.

Client B: Uncertainty Across Continents

Now, consider Emily’s situation. Her attempts to initiate similar conversations with her parents, living miles away, have felt like pushing against a wall. Despite numerous efforts, the discussions haven’t led to concrete plans or answers to her pressing questions. Unanswered questions linger: Who makes decisions if one parent passes? What are their preferences for care and final wishes? Though named executor, Emily grapples with future logistical hurdles: time zones, legal complexities, and unfamiliar systems. These uncertainties amplify her worries.

While Sarah and Emily’s situations differ, they both highlight the critical role of open communication. Talking now, not later, is the key to avoiding future stress and confusion. Having conversations now provides clarity and reduces future anxieties. Open communication ensures your loved ones’ desires are understood and respected.

Starting the Conversation

Remember, this doesn’t have to be a single, daunting discussion. Take it one step at a time:

  • Begin with shared values: Start with broader questions about their priorities and future aspirations. What matters most to them? What legacy do they wish to leave?
  • Focus on present concerns: Talk about their current preferences for healthcare and living arrangements. This establishes a foundation for future discussions.
  • Listen actively and validate feelings: This is a collaborative effort, not an interrogation. Acknowledge their emotions without judgment.
  • Respect their pace: Understand that these conversations may take time and emotional processing. Be patient and supportive, creating a safe space for open dialogue.
  • Frame it positively: View the conversation as an act of love and preparation, ensuring a smoother transition for everyone.

Talking about mortality isn’t easy, but avoiding it carries a heavier cost. Remember, a little courage and open communication goes a long way. As Brene Brown reminds us, courage is not about daring to jump off a cliff. It’s about having tough conversations about our lives and relationships, showing up when we’re afraid, and doing hard things that matter.

Additional reading: The Importance of a Legacy Folder

Spotlight on Eastlands Mature Lifestyle Estate

Eastlands Mature Lifestyle Estate in Benoni North combines luxurious sectional title investment homes with premium wellness, healthcare, and frail care services within a secure and picturesque setting. Geared towards active and self-reliant individuals aged 50 and above, Eastlands offers a valuable asset promising a rewarding lifestyle and long-term financial returns. The Lifestyle Centre prioritises health and fitness with amenities like pools, a gym, and a bowling green, while the Healthcare and Wellness Centre, managed by CareLife, ensures residents’ future healthcare needs are met with a homely touch. Eastlands also provides convenient services such as pet-friendly units, a restaurant, and robust security measures, making it an appealing choice for retirees and property investors alike.

Click here to read more

Meet Eastland residents – Nico and Ellen Martins

Nico and Ellen Martins, residents of Eastlands Mature Lifestyle Estate in Benoni North, moved to this over-50s community in March 2018 after thorough research on retirement choices. They were attracted to the peaceful countryside environment of the estate, as well as its proximity to both the airport and city amenities. The flexibility of choosing from various building plans, ranging from one and two-bedroom units to three and four-bedroom free-standing houses, was another factor in their decision-making process. Nico and Ellen also considered the estate’s comprehensive facilities, including home-based care, health and frail care services, security, home and garden maintenance, and a restaurant.

Before becoming Eastlands residents, Nico and Ellen had spent 31 years in their Glenvista, Johannesburg home, cherishing that period in their life journey. However, recognising the need for lifestyle changes in preparation for the future, they moved to Eastlands. Despite their attachment to their former area, the absence of Mature Lifestyle Centres comparable to Eastlands led them to make the move.

They particularly appreciate the beautifully maintained gardens with ponds and walkways and the convenience of housekeeping, laundry, and gardening maintenance services. The estate’s friendly residents and the opportunity to enjoy walks in the adjacent farming areas are added bonuses. The estate offers a well-established library, a boardroom for business meetings, and a restaurant with an extensive à la carte menu, daily buffet meals, and a bar service. The restaurant also hosts regular functions for entertainment and private resident gatherings.

In terms of their social life within the estate, while they continue to work from home several days a week, Nico and Ellen find comfort in knowing that numerous social activities are available when they choose to partake. They often go on motorcycle rides with a small group and frequently organise dinner gatherings with their close friends from the estate at the restaurant.

The estate offers a wide range of activities, including bowls, table tennis, bingo, quiz nights, card games, and fitness classes. There are also opportunities for gardening and crafting, including a hobby room for sewing, knitting, and crafting enthusiasts. When time allows, Ellen enjoys attending the Courage Girls, who arrange coffee mornings and host interesting speakers.

When asked if they had any additional insights to offer, they recommended that anyone contemplating a move to Eastlands should start by visiting the estate and enjoying a meal at the restaurant. For them, living in the countryside is a blessing, although shopping centres may be a bit farther away. However, the estate offers a weekly shuttle service to a shopping mall and an airport drop-off service. Eastlands is ready for possible water issues with large water tanks, and the Lifestyle Centre is not affected by loadshedding as it has its own generator and solar power.

Spotlight on Sondela Senior Lifestyle Estate

Nestled in the picturesque bushveld of Limpopo, Sondela’s over 50 Lifestyle Estate offers an idyllic retirement haven for those seeking a peaceful and secure living environment. With its close proximity to Pretoria, the estate provides easy access to city amenities while immersing residents in the breathtaking beauty of nature. Sondela is a premier Bela-Bela resort, offering a family-oriented atmosphere and a deep commitment to preserving and nurturing the natural environment. From rare game sightings to educational programmes and rehabilitation initiatives, Sondela embraces a holistic approach to life and nature. The estate’s retirement homes are thoughtfully designed, allowing residents to enjoy the convenience of nearby facilities and an array of activities, including game drives and access to the acclaimed Iketla spa. Whether you’re planning for retirement or already retired, Sondela Nature Reserve and Spa offers a sanctuary where residents can connect with nature, find tranquillity, and create cherished memories for a lifetime.

Click here to read more about the estate

Meet Sondela Residents Shirley and Philip Roach

The Roaches moved to the estate after starting the construction of their house in early 2021 and completing it towards the end of the same year. The allure of living amidst nature’s beauty, coupled with their desire to embrace a peaceful retirement away from the city, led them to make the decision to call Sondela home.

Having always been city dwellers and previously resided in bustling Centurion, the Roaches now revel in the tranquillity that Sondela offers. They thoroughly enjoy observing the diverse wildlife that meanders through their gardens and value their neighbours’ shared appreciation for nature. With Bela-Bela conveniently nearby for shopping needs and Pretoria within reachable distance, they have found the perfect balance between the African bush and necessary amenities.

Even though the estate is still relatively small, there is a great sense of community, and the Roaches have developed close relationships with their neighbours, enjoying get-togethers every so often. Additionally, they belong to a Pilates group that travels to Bela-Bela twice a week for exercise.

As residents of Sondela’s Senior Lifestyle Estate, Phillip and Shirley take advantage of the various amenities. They frequently explore the extensive bicycle trails, enjoying walks and bike rides amidst the picturesque surroundings. The swimming pools offer refreshing leisure options, especially during the summer months. They appreciate the privilege of going on game drives within the reserve, something they often do. Residents are encouraged to have friends and family visit them on the estate, and Shirley and Phillip have created special memories, particularly with their granddaughter.

Asked what advice they would give those considering moving to an estate, the Roaches emphasised the importance of familiarising oneself with the estate’s rules. They suggested carefully reviewing and understanding the regulations to ensure they align with personal preferences. Sondela’s strict rules are designed to protect and maintain the core values of the estate, ensuring unspoiled natural surroundings, a rustic farm-style experience, safety and security, comfortable living, an active outdoor lifestyle, good governance, financial sustainability, and competitive market value.

Ubuntu in Action – The inspiring legacy of the Donaldson Trust

Mandela Month, celebrated annually in July, is a special time dedicated to honouring the extraordinary legacy of Nelson Mandela. This month serves as a global call to action, encouraging people from all walks of life to embrace the spirit of ubuntu – the philosophy of compassion, empathy, and unity. It is a time for individuals and communities to engage in acts of kindness, service, and social upliftment.

Chartered client Benjy Donaldson is the epitome of someone who embraces the spirit of ubuntu. He actively manages the Donaldson Trust, founded in 1936 by his grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel James Donaldson. Benjy has been involved with the Trust for over 50 years. The Donaldson Trust is the oldest private trust fund dedicated to improving black social development in South Africa. Colonel Donaldson’s profound concern for the rights of black South Africans was ignited in 1935 when he witnessed draft legislation that aimed to strip them of their voting rights in the Cape. He took action by financing the All-African Congress leaders’ trip to Cape Town to lobby MPs and rally public support, successfully thwarting the passage of the bill.

Throughout its history, the Donaldson Trust has relentlessly addressed the profound inequalities in South African society. It has played a vital role in constructing essential infrastructure such as hospitals, dams, schools, and universities, including the renowned Donaldson Wing at Fort Hare University and the iconic Donaldson Orlando Community Centre (DOCC) in Soweto. The DOCC holds significant historical value, having witnessed Nelson Mandela’s boxing journey and Miriam Makeba’s first-ever performance.

The Trust’s dedication to uplifting the disadvantaged encompasses a wide array of projects, spanning education, youth initiatives, HIV/AIDS-related programs, agricultural support, mental health, disability initiatives, and hospices. According to Benjy, the Trust focuses on seed money projects, not ongoing funding. Operating on a pro bono basis, the trustees meet quarterly at the Priory of St John in Westcliff, Johannesburg, to allocate funds solely towards empowerment and upliftment. For Benjy and the trustees, it’s not just about giving funds but understanding the challenges many face and fostering genuine change.

Benjy is very humble about the impact the Trust has made on the lives of South Africans over the years. Yet, the legacy created by his family serves as a reminder that each of us has the power to make a difference, no matter how small our actions may seem.

How balanced is your life in retirement?

We firmly believe that achieving balance is fundamental to a successful retirement. Life encompasses various facets, and neglecting one can have a ripple effect on others. In the hustle and bustle of life, attaining balance often feels like an uphill battle; some areas are given more attention than others.

There is a fantastic quote by Jana Kingsford that says, “Balance is not something you find; it’s something you create.” Achieving balance is not passive; it requires active effort and conscious choices.

That’s why we have identified eight essential elements that form the foundation of a more balanced and meaningful retirement: work, give-back, relationships, money, learning, health, purpose and play.

It’s often a good idea to check in with yourself and reflect on how balanced your life is. As a reminder, let’s dive deeper into each area of the Wheel of Balance and explore what they encompass.

1. Work

Work in retirement goes beyond financial rewards and working 9-5! It’s about finding meaningful engagements that bring a sense of purpose to your life. Whether pursuing a passion project, starting a new venture, mentoring people or starting a side hustle, work adds structure and a sense of contribution to your retirement journey.

2. Give-back

Giving back is not limited to charity work; it’s about making a positive impact and leaving a legacy. It can involve volunteering, mentoring, or supporting causes that resonate with your values. Giving back to others lifts our spirits, makes us happier and makes our lives richer.

3. Relationships

True wealth lies in the people you share your life with. Cultivating and maintaining meaningful relationships and nurturing connections with family, friends, and community all lead to a fulfilling retirement.

4. Money

Money plays a significant role in retirement, but it’s not just about accumulating wealth. It’s about understanding your financial resources, managing them wisely, and aligning them with your desired lifestyle. Is your money serving you, or are you serving it?

5. Learning

Retirement is an ideal time to continue learning and expanding your knowledge. It could involve pursuing new interests and acquiring new skills. Embracing a curious and growth-oriented mindset keeps your mind active.

6. Health

Prioritising your physical and mental well-being is crucial. Regular exercise, healthy habits, and self-care practices ensure you have the energy and vitality to fully embrace life’s adventures.

7. Purpose

As we navigate through the various stages of life, our sense of purpose naturally evolves and transforms. With each stage, our priorities, values, and aspirations transform, guiding us towards new paths and allowing us to embrace the ever-changing nature of our purpose.

8. Play

Embracing play and leisure activities brings joy, relaxation, and a sense of rejuvenation. It’s about engaging in hobbies, creative pursuits, and experiences that bring you happiness and allow you to fully embrace the present moment.

Want to know how balanced your life is? Click here to take the Balance Test.

How things can change in the blink of an eye

Earlier this month, on a seemingly ordinary Saturday evening, on our way to meet our family for dinner, my husband Gys and I were involved in a car accident. Despite my car being written off and being very shaken, Gys and I escaped unscathed.

While the accident only took seconds, it felt like an eternity, and during those split seconds, I genuinely thought it might be the end for us. It was a terrifying wake-up call that reminded me how the course of our lives can be forever altered in a single second.

The following day, as I pondered the events, three crucial questions surfaced in my mind. Firstly, I asked myself, “Are my relationships in order? Have I expressed love and gratitude to those who mean the most to me?” And, in that moment of reflection, I found comfort in the fact that I had no unfinished business with those I hold dear. My children know how much I love them, and there’s no one important in my life who doesn’t know how I feel about them. It was a poignant reminder that, at the end of the day, it’s our relationships with others that enrich and adds meaning to our lives. We often neglect our relationships, putting off picking up the phone, spending time with family and friends, or telling people how we feel because we are busy. We assume we will have ample time, but this experience taught me that time is a gift we shouldn’t take for granted. We must take every opportunity to strengthen our bonds with family and friends, for we never know when those opportunities may be taken away from us.

The second question I asked was, “Am I doing everything I want in life?” Life is fleeting, and we must grab the opportunities when they present themselves. I firmly believe in living life intentionally, saying yes to experiences that bring me joy and fulfilment. While there are things I still want to do, I have no regrets about the things I have done and the experiences I have had.

The final question that came to mind was, “Are my affairs in order?” I found solace in knowing that my will was up to date, ensuring my family’s security. It is so important not to procrastinate when it comes to getting our affairs in order. Taking the necessary steps to prepare for the future is a responsible and caring act toward our loved ones.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to cherish your relationships, expressing your love and gratitude openly. Embrace life’s adventures. Don’t live a life looking back thinking “if only”; say yes to the things you genuinely desire. And most importantly, take the necessary steps to put your affairs in order, providing peace of mind for yourself and your family.

AnneArtz: A Story of Creativity, Resilience, and Inspiration

Chartered client Anne Holden has always been driven by her passion for creativity. With a BA in Fine Arts and a PGCE from Unisa and Wits, she began her career coordinating events and designing decor for weddings and corporate functions. Later, Anne transitioned to teaching Visual Art to Grade 10 to Matric and Arts & Culture to Grades 8 & 9. After dedicating 15 years to teaching, she retired in 2021 at the age of 65, ready to explore new artistic ventures.

Unfortunately, in late 2021, Anne was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, which led to her spending a significant portion of 2022 in and out of the hospital. Despite these challenging circumstances, in between medical treatments, Anne found solace and a means of self-expression through her creative pursuits, specifically mosaic work and painting.

In 2023, Anne decided to embrace her passion fully and established her own art business called AnneArtz. She now teaches painting in retirement homes, provides private lessons, and hosts monthly workshops at her home in Risidale. These workshops explore mosaic work and ceramic painting, offering participants a chance to create their own artwork to take home.

Anne’s commitment to nurturing young talent led her to host a delightful kiddies’ holiday workshop featuring various art activities over five mornings.

Beyond teaching and workshops, Anne showcases her art at Lifestyle Garden Centre and Hadeda, offering ready-made products such as pots, plaques, and stepping stones. She also takes on commissions and recently transformed a nursery school’s firepit with beautiful mosaic scenes. She is currently working on a large mosaic garden “dance floor” for a client.

As a personal project, Anne created a stunning Mexican-inspired wall in her garden, painted in a brilliant blue and adorned with her own mosaic work.

Please visit Anne’s Facebook page for more details about her workshops and art.