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Review of FINDING ME by Viola Davis

Viola Davis would probably not be the first name that comes to mind for most people if asked to specify an award-winning actress. My only acquaintance with her work was a random discovery of the TV series How to Get Away with Murder when it was screened on eTV a few years ago. Something about the gritty legal thriller and its imposing female lead had me engrossed.

Since reading her 2022 autobiography, I now know that Viola Davis has won all the prestigious performance awards – the Tony, an Emmy, an Oscar, as well as a recent Grammy for the audio narration of her memoir; to date, only 18 actors have achieved all four and earned the distinction of becoming an “EGOT”. She is also a graduate of the Juilliard School’s 4-year drama programme, although she felt that she didn’t really fit into the euro-centric training. That’s a truly impressive list of accomplishments, but reading her story leaves you in awe of what she had to overcome and how hard she worked to reach the pinnacle of her craft and a place of self-love.

Viola was born into poverty in the US and grew up as one of six children in a home where alcohol abuse and domestic violence were her backdrop. She describes rat-infested living conditions in buildings that were fire hazards, no heating or hot water in bitterly cold winters, and regular hunger. As a child, her dark skin and chronic bed-wetting added to her torment. Fortunately, there have been a few guiding lights in her life: her oldest sister loved school and encouraged Viola to learn and work towards something better, a teacher and a counsellor urged her to enter an arts talent competition as a teenager, there were friends and mentors as she pursued her acting career, and (after a friend told her to get down on her knees and pray for the kind of man she wanted) her husband of the past 20 years.

In her book, Viola shares her long, gruelling journey to success and self-acceptance, including therapy in later years as she struggled to embrace the traumatised child she had been and to see herself as worthy.

A copy of FINDING ME by Viola Davis is available in the Chartered Client Library for short-term loan.

From Priest to Painter – Gill’s journey

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Chartered client and former priest, Gill Bowman, discovered a new purpose in art. She had always been passionate about art, even studying it after matric, but her faith and community work took precedence. When she was put on disability leave due to her diagnosis, she realised it was time to rekindle her passion for art.

During a life planning session at Chartered, Gill realised how much she wanted to get back into art. She started doing mandalas and found the process both meditative and healing, describing it as getting the thoughts in her head out onto paper. During lockdown, Gill took online courses from the Learn to Paint Academy and the ETCHR Studio, as well as motivational courses from Jessica Serran.

Gill primarily works with acrylics, occasionally dabbling in watercolours. She soon began selling her art and displaying it at local galleries, spending up to six hours a day in her studio creating her paintings. In December this year, Gill will exhibit her work at “Art on the Veranda” in Bushman’s River. She has also been invited to showcase her art at the prestigious Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2024.

Gill has turned her art into a new side hustle and also finds it beneficial in managing Parkinson’s symptoms. She says that painting helps to calm her hands and body, as well as her overall anxiety.

Roy, her husband, has been a great supporter of her journey in the world of art. He helps with the framing and other tasks, and she fondly refers to him as her assistant.

When asked about her new purpose in life, Gill said that she had two choices when her purpose as a priest was taken away by Parkinson’s; she realised she could either choose the tomb and see this as the end of her life – or choose the womb, an opportunity to start a new one. Her choice is obvious.

Gill’s story is an inspiration to us all. It shows that we can always find new purpose and meaning in life, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

To see Gill’s art, you can follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

The Never-Ending Journey of Learning

At Retire Successfully, we believe that lifelong learning is essential for a fulfilling retirement. Life is a tapestry of many threads; neglecting one can unravel the others. That’s why we’ve identified eight essential elements that weave together a balanced and meaningful retirement: work, give back, relationships, money, learning, health, purpose, and play. This month, we’re focusing on the “learn” element.

What is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong learning is the continuous pursuit of knowledge and skills throughout one’s life. It is driven by a desire to grow and develop personally and professionally. Lifelong learning can take many forms, including formal education (such as attending college or university), non-formal education (such as taking online courses or workshops), and informal learning (such as reading books, watching documentaries, or engaging in conversations with experts).

The Benefits of Lifelong Learning

The benefits of lifelong learning are far-reaching – it keeps the mind active and engaged, which can help protect cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia in later life. Learning new things can be an enriching experience, giving people a sense of accomplishment and purpose and helping them live more fulfilling lives. A wonderful added benefit is that continuous learning creates new opportunities for people to connect with others with the same interests.

Lifelong Learner: Meet Stephen Marcus Finn

Chartered client Stephen Marcus Finn is the epitome of a lifelong learner. Although Stephen, who’ll turn 75 next month, has a Master’s in English and a doctorate in Communication, he insists – and persists – in studying further – all the time.

In his mid-sixties, he returned to the piano to do his Grade 8 (the highest level) practical with the Royal Schools of Music, having to start from Grade 4. He did this in one year and, in the same period, went from Grade 1 to his Grade 8 theory exam, which he passed with distinction.

Six years ago, he completed his third year in Film at the Open Window and was also involved in acting at a private institution.

To celebrate his 70th birthday, Stephen gave a piano recital that included works by vegan composers, including the notoriously difficult Alexander Scriabin.

Three years ago, he obtained his Honours in Drama and Film Studies at the University of Pretoria, specialising in Research, Writing and Directing, and earned his degree with distinction. When he obtained his first Honours degree in English, he was the youngest student in his programme at the university; this time around, his fellow students were young enough to be his grandchildren.

Straight after a double-knee replacement, Stephen started writing an academic book on animal rights, Farmed Animals on Film: A Manifesto for a New Ethic, which took him a year to complete and was published by a major company in the USA. He has currently resumed his passion for writing novels, plays and poetry, but intends to continue (in the next year or two) with studies in … whatever he wants to do.

Stephen’s journey is proof of the endless opportunities for growth and fulfilment through lifelong learning. His story shows that it’s never too late to embark on a path of curiosity, discovery, and self-improvement.

Spotlight on Negester Onrusrivier

Negester Onrusrivier is a lifestyle estate for the over-50s, situated in a tranquil coastal town near Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa. It offers a range of property options, including full-title homes and sectional-title apartments within the care centre. The estate’s architectural design draws inspiration from Cape Malay houses, Stellenbosch’s Dorp Street, and modern farmhouses.

Residents of Negester Onrusrivier enjoy a range of amenities, including a modern care centre with 50 residential units, a lunchroom, a living room, a small library, a hair salon, and a clinic. The estate also offers different care packages to suit individual needs.

Negester Onrusrivier offers the perfect retirement lifestyle for those seeking a secure and serene environment with easy access to amenities and attractions.

Click here to view their website

Meet Negester Residents Peter and Jackie Mellowship

Peter and Jackie moved to the Negester North Estate in August 2014. Their primary reason for the move was downsizing to a more manageable property. Peter and Jackie were both in their sixties, and their children had all moved away (two of the three to overseas locations) and had their own families. They had a large property all to themselves with only occasional visitors.

Their part of the estate is purely residential, with no medical or care amenities, restaurants or communal facilities. It is a gated complex with 24-hour security and access control.

The bulk of the estate was designed with a 55+ theme featuring smaller, more manageable properties; in their case, their home is on one level, with wheelchair-friendly touches such as easy-access showers.

Socially, Peter and Jackie enjoy occasional lunches and dinner parties hosted by fellow residents at their homes. Having lived in the Hermanus area for 19 years, they most often socialise with friends made over the years rather than just in the estate.
Peter and Jackie have sound advice for others considering moving to an estate: carefully consider the type of facilities you will require in the future. Estates vary widely, ranging from purely gated communities to those providing comprehensive medical and care facilities. They know of several instances in which couples relocated to their estate, only to move once again shortly afterwards, because one partner needed access to medical care facilities. “Before making your decision, ask yourselves those tough questions,” recommend Peter and Jackie.

From rugby fields to empty nests

And the promise to tackle foreboding joy in the scrum of life

I have shared all my first-time, brand-new, and exciting experiences with you every month this year. This month, I am standing on the edge, waiting for a significant change in my life – becoming an empty nester for the first time. My daughter, Gabi, will embrace her next chapter of studying Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University next year. While I have so many mixed emotions ranging from pride, love and anticipation – to fear, dread and anxiousness, I remind myself to stay focused on the present and enjoy the time we have now, rather than be overwhelmed by the worries of next year.

Have you ever spent so much time worrying about the what ifs that the beautiful, joyous moments of the present pass you by? Do you find yourself constantly worrying about things that haven’t happened yet?

I’m incredibly proud of Gabi’s achievements and her choice to pursue a career in engineering. I love every minute of my time with her. Still, I constantly guard myself not to be overly concerned about everything that could possibly go wrong or pre-empting the dread of an empty home and losing those daily moments with her.

In a wonderful social media post, Brent Lindeque (The Good Things Guy) reminded me of a term called anticipatory grief – when you worry or grieve about things that haven’t happened yet (like many South Africans did 70 minutes into the Springbok-England Rugby World Cup Semi-finals). At the very least, we were all panicking just a little bit! I am convinced that only the bravest of us resisted grieving ahead of schedule!

But rugby aside, Brent makes a good point when he shares that South Africans may be in a constant state of anticipatory grief – waiting for the next corruption scandal, waiting to hear more bad news, waiting for load-shedding, more potholes, inflation, another war … Similarly, the concept foreboding joy, coined by Brené Brown, captures the internal conflict we feel when joy is immediately followed by worry and fear. We end up catastrophising, wasting our time worrying about things that haven’t happened, and in the process, we have no time or space left to embrace the joy and happiness of our present.

I’ve seen how the initial excitement of retirement can be replaced by fears and questions like “What will I do with my life?” or “Will my money last?” and “What if my health fails?” I have spoken to many people whose children are emigrating, and the fear and worry for their future start way before they leave the country. I’ve noticed how fear and worry can deter people from trying new things. It seems we are all constantly worrying, letting the impending fear of loss and change overshadow the potential joy of living in the present moment.

So, how do we move past this cycle of anticipatory grief? The answer, I believe, lies in being present. Embrace each moment fully and focus on gratitude, all the positive aspects of change, and the many new adventures that change will bring.

So, no anticipating grief this Saturday during the World Cup Rugby Final! No foreboding joy allowed! This is the 8th Rugby World Cup tournament that SA is playing; we’ve won the Cup three times and have never lost a final! There’s nothing to worry about.

Review of The Good Life and How to Live It

Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

The authors of this book (published in 2023) are the current programme directors of a Harvard research project that has been ongoing for an impressive 84 years. It has followed the lives of diverse participants, from their early teens through their senior years, incorporating a second generation along the way – all in a quest to deliver what the title of the book promises.

They aren’t, however, promising a shortcut to euphoria, and the authors do clarify that they are referring to eudaimonic happiness, which is “a state of deep well-being in which a person feels that their life has meaning and purpose” despite the inevitable disappointments, trauma and loss that we all experience over a lifetime.

It all comes down to relationships; other studies over the years also back up the data from the Harvard Study, i.e., quality relationships play a pivotal role in supporting our health and happiness. The Harvard Study participants who fared best in terms of happiness had strong relationships and were in better mental and physical shape into their 80s. Quality of and satisfaction with your relationships count and provide ‘armour’ when life delivers hard knocks.

The message is that all relationships – spanning spouses, family, colleagues, and friends – need effort towards embracing openness, offering and asking for support, facing into challenges, taking time to pause and understand emotions and situations better, paying attention (especially to long-term relationships that have shifted into autopilot) and showing genuine curiosity. Even interacting with a stranger can boost mood and open up opportunities. Loss of friends following retirement is quite common, and the authors encourage being purposeful about maintaining and creating social connections as life progresses.

The book provides some mini-Harvard-Study tools to gauge your ‘Social Fitness’ and plot your ‘Social Universe’, as well as a ‘W.I.S.E.R.’ model for dealing with challenging relationship events. Several life stories and comparisons among individuals who have participated in the Harvard project are included and add the human element to the research data.

A copy of The Good Life and How to Live It – Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness is available for short-term loan from our Chartered Client Library.

Reinventing Retirement – Cheryl and Duncan’s Journey

In the serene heart of Eswatini (Swaziland), Chartered Clients Cheryl and Duncan are embracing retirement as a time for rejuvenation and self-discovery. Their story shows how retirement can be a time for reinvention and new possibilities.

Cheryl and Duncan’s backgrounds were as diverse as they were successful. Duncan had spent his career in the meat industry, while Cheryl owned an industrial laundromat. After retiring, they embarked on what they thought would be a leisurely chapter in their lives. However, after just 18 months, they realised that retirement wasn’t about slowing down; it was about finding new avenues for stimulation and growth, so they took over the lease of a coffee shop in a nursery in Malkerns, Swaziland.

Despite working seven days a week and managing six staff members, Cheryl and Duncan love their new venture. Duncan has always loved baking and cooking, so he spends much time creating new recipes and training staff on how to make them. His latest additions to the menu have been well-received by customers.

Cheryl uses her skills honed during her years in the laundry business to manage the back end and bookkeeping. Cheryl and Duncan spend a lot of time mingling with customers, most of whom they know personally since they have lived in Ezulwini, Swaziland, for 32 years.

Despite their full-time commitment to the coffee shop, Cheryl and Duncan recently took a well-deserved break to visit their newborn grandson, Max, in Zimbabwe. This cherished family time was a reminder for them that retirement is about finding a balance between work and life’s other joys.

Cheryl and Duncan are inspiring examples of how to reinvent oneself in retirement. They found something they are passionate about and are now running a successful business. They are actively involved in their community and continue to grow, learn, and contribute to the world around them.

Cheryl and Duncan’s story reminds us that:

  • It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
  • Find something you’re passionate about and pursue it.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks.
  • Be active in your community.
  • Enjoy your life!

U3A – A Look Over the Fence

Although I still have two feet in the working world, it seemed like sensible pre-planning to find out what social options lie on the other side of the fence for my next (and not-so-distant) life chapter. And so I joined U3A.

I first heard about the rather quirky-sounding University of the Third Age from my neighbour, a fit and feisty 70-something with whom I do a 5 km walk on Sundays – which gives us a lot of time to talk! She explained that U3A is a worldwide organisation that aims to provide mature people, many retired or semi-retired, a forum for continued learning, interaction, and knowledge exchange; there are around 30 branches in South Africa. She belongs to a smaller branch and, in addition to attending some of their talks, she participates in a photographic interest group and one for birding enthusiasts.

I selected one of the bigger branches – for its proximity to work and on the assumption that bigger would mean better when it comes to monthly talks. Upon arriving to attend my first talk and seeing the busy car park, I did have fleeting second thoughts about making a solo entrance. However, in the foyer, I met a friendly lady also on her own who bought me a “welcome” coffee and chatted to me about her part-time work in education; shortly afterwards, I also bumped into a couple of Chartered clients.

Over the past few months, the topics have included conservation, personal stories, and township economics, all delivered by engaging speakers. There are also various special interest groups that one can join, which cover art, computers, writing, hiking, theatre, history, philosophy and – for the poetic at heart – even Shakespearean sonnets! That’s quite an array of options to keep the brain cells firing and meet new friends.

The annual membership fee ranges from around R80 – R200, and the various branches’ monthly talks are usually held on a Tuesday morning in a community/church hall or auditorium in the respective areas. Membership is branch-specific, but most have a nominal visitor’s charge if you want to attend a talk at a branch other than your own.

While online information about the branches and contact persons is currently sparse, an umbrella website is under construction to list all the South African U3A branches with their essential details. For now, a Google search will bring up limited results for U3A Johannesburg, Johannesburg East, Johannesburg North and Pretoria, as well as Cape Town, George, Plett, East London and Durban if you are keen to join or find out more.

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.

Age ain’t nothing but a playlist track!

My first-time not-unusual Delilah-cious encounter with Tom Jones

Okay, my article heading may be a bit too much! But if you’ve seen Sir Tom Jones perform “It’s Not Unusual” and “Delilah” live on stage, you might also find yourself humming to “Green Green Grass of Home” while watching the Springboks play in the Rugby World Cup.

Every year, Jean and I plan an overseas trip together, and we always add something new – a fresh experience that we’ll both enjoy. Just as we’ve done in the past by adding a Rod Stewart and Billy Joel concert to our itinerary, this year we chose a show featuring none other than Tom Jones in Germany.

At 83, Tom Jones is still rocking on! Thinking back on my first-time experiences this year, this one really hit home. Age is just a number, right? Not that anyone’s counting, but here was Tom Jones, who began his career in the 1960s, still performing his classics to a crowd of over 10,000 people – all loving his music. 83 is a number that may make many want to slow down or take things easy. But not him. He’s still busting the age myth, one tune at a time! It made me question the constraints I sometimes impose on myself due to age. Do I use my age as an excuse not to do certain things?

My father was a huge fan of Tom Jones, which is how I was introduced to his songs. This experience has reminded me of a dream I once had: to run in the Comrades Marathon using my late dad’s double green number. In fact, 81-year-old Johannes Mosehla broke a 34-year-old record this year by becoming the oldest runner to complete the Comrades. Still, running the Comrades is not for everyone, and for now, I am very happy with my achievement of having completed my first 21km race.

One thing that I was certainly not too old – or too young – to try was beer! An unusual choice for me. Beer is certainly not my preferred drink, but whilst at a Beer Festival, I thought, “Why not?” and gave it a go. The result? An unforgettable memory – one I will cherish and laugh about for years to come.

The true magic of this trip was sharing it with Jean, a truly special friend. I’ve mentioned Robert Waldinger’s Harvard research before, which finds that the secret to a long and healthy life lies in connections and close relationships with significant people. This may just be what inspired Tom Jones and Dolly Parton to write “Islands in the Stream.” Without our special people, the ones we love and those who make our souls sing, we are simply islands adrift in the stream of life.

Let’s promise ourselves not to let age hold us back and to cherish our connections in the flowing river of life,