I was so apprehensive about this project when Glacier by Sanlam first approached me. I’d be spending time with someone retired and I immediately thought of ancient mothballs. I feel just awful saying /typing that out loud, but it’s honest.
This project is about learning about a retiree, finding out what choices she made and how she has lived her life up until now, so that us young people can hopefully be inspired and thinks about our own retirement.
On Monday morning, I made the short, picturesque drive from Sea Point to Camps Bay.
Sarah and I live 10 minutes from each other and as I pulled into the apartment, I was greeted with a warm hug.
As soon as I walked into their home, I was immediately drawn by how beautiful, spacious and welcoming it is. It has a beautiful energy and as I made my way in, I literally gasped. I think my breath was taken away by the most magnificent ocean view. It’s probably one of the best views I’ve seen from a home here in Cape Town. It’s a full panoramic view of the ocean as far as the eye can see. If you crane your neck, you can see the 12 Apostles Mountains, which were hiding under a thick blanket of cloud.
I got to meet Bruce, Sarah’s husband and he is just as warm and friendly as Sarah. You can just tell they’re a fantastic couple and warmth exudes from both of them.
All 3 of us stood next to each other looking out at the ocean.
Sarah made us coffees and soon we settled down to chat.
Bailey: How has your lifestyle changed since being retired?
Sarah: Primarily it’s changed in terms of being flexible, how I structure my day, week or month. Alternatively it’s not being structured at all, so that if something comes along, I have much more freedom to go off and explore this avenue
Being retired means that there is an overwhelming variety of new pursuits and interests or developing a previous hobby further.
I do cycling and the cycle touring opened up a different kind of travel, which was wonderful and really puts you in touch with life at the edge of the roadside
Hiking became a lifestyle and a good hike a year is factored into each year.
A stand out trip: The Annapurna circuit in Nepal.
Locally: The Whale Trail. It was a 5-day highlight, combining the best of western cape coastal, fynbos and whales.
Sarah: I look after my sister who has Down’s Syndrome. She is now settling into her new care home and I’m thrilled to see that she is looking at life more positively after the recent passing of our mother.
I spend time caring for my family. I’m quite involved with my young niece and nephews and I’m excited that our toddler granddaughter is coming in December from Johannesburg.
I do every day chores, like looking after our home, shopping, cooking.
I play Mahjong, a Chinese tile game with a group of girlfriends. It’s great mental stimulation and a way of sharing life experiences with people who are at a similar life stage.
I was playing Golf 3x a week but it’s not as regular anymore because of my eye condition – but I’m hoping to play more.
I love reading and some of my favourite authors are Jodi Picoult, William Boyd and Deon Meyer. I love art and sketching. I’m hoping some painting lessons are on the horizon.
I’m by no means a foodie, but I do like to entertain. We are heading to Hermanus this weekend with some friends. We do a Hermanus trip once a month, which means I need to structure the cooking and get creative.
I’ve made a tomato soup with spicy paprika. The evening entrees are parsley grilled lamb sausages with courgette ribbons wrapped around and I’ll roast a chicken. A Typical Saturday in Hermanus for us is a cycle to the lagoon and back. Organise coffee for everyone. Get baskets ready for the organic market, where my friends, my husband and I over indulge in the fudge, the breakfast rolls, wine and our table always has a selection of amazing food!
I’m very keen on needle work and embroidery, but because of my eye issue of having AMRD, I can’t do as much. I can no longer work on a sewing machine and it’s hard to do the finer stuff.
A few years ago, I started up an outreach project for my sister with intellectual disability : she makes little pom-poms and we sew those onto the sports socks. The ladies at the golf clubs love them and have really supported our efforts – often sending them overseas as gifts.
Right now, I am looking into new craft projects that can be developed by the residents at her group home (Belmont House) for their Christmas fundraiser. I think it’s very fulfilling to give back and pass on skills obtained.
I definitely wish I did art. It is something I feel I could still do. I’d love to join an art group. Still waiting to be done.
I love getting involved in projects with my daughter. I recycle furniture and do paint techniques on small pieces of furniture.
As you can see, I need to do things with my hands!
I also feel that I need to work with plants and greenery. Here in the apartment there isn’t much opportunity for a veggie garden. I have a few orchids and have had the joy of having some of them re-flower. I’ve bought some clivia flowers and I plan to plant them in a shady area. I just feel like I need to work with the soil, without having the onus of working a garden. I want to see something thrive on a small-scale gives me pleasure.
I don’t think I will be able to do those sustainable veggie gardens. I looked at the roof but the wind is so intense. I have to find little nooks and crannies.
Bailey: There has to be something to this, because most people I know who are older and actually retired, suddenly express a keen interest in gardening. It’s fascinating. I personally am my happiest when I’m in nature and surrounded by greenery, but I can’t always be surrounded by it –especially when I’m on the go and working so much. It’s the one thing I do miss about JHB. Most homes have gardens, but here on the Atlantic Sea Board, it’s mainly apartment living.
I laughed when she mentioned the orchids because I have so many too and it’s the first time I’ve not managed to kill them.
Another thing that has struck me is how she still has dreams and projects she wants to do. I’m amazed at how busy she keeps. She hasn’t just retired and done nothing or just sat watching soapies, like one would imagine.
Retirement just allows you to do the projects/hobbies you’ve always wanted to do and perhaps couldn’t when you needed to work, run a household, have a family and look after other responsibilities and not really focusing on what you ultimately want to do.
It makes me think that perhaps I need to balance more. I focus so much on my responsibilities and less on hobbies or things that I really love to do, like my photography, being in nature, writing and so on.
Bailey: What’s the one thing you’ve done while being retired that you never thought you’d ever do?
Sarah: The first thing that comes to mind is golf. It’s taken us to really wonderful places and I have such an appreciation of nature through all the beautiful courses.
It does take up a lot of time and when I was working I was far too busy to think I could have that leisure time. I honestly don’t know how people work and play golf … I don’t know how they do it.
I also love antique hunting – not for possession but more the story of how they came about. I love going into antique stores. My parents came from the UK and it’s interesting for me to find out more about pieces that relate to their past and where they came from.
Bailey: How has retirement changed your travel plans?
Sarah: We are more flexible. We don’t have to go in peak season. We can avoid visiting places when it’s very crowded
We can go in quieter times and have a better experience.
Bruce and I went to Crete – it was before the summer season started and we cycled and experienced an island where it felt like it was just us! It was excellent.
Bailey: You started saving really young – 13 years old, which is amazing. From working and all the saving you did, it’s allowed you to be quite comfortable in being able to live the life you do.
Sarah: Savings have helped me be able to offer my nieces and nephews holiday opportunities that might not fit into their budget, for example.
I am grateful that I have enough so that I can contribute and enable my family to have different experiences.
It has helped us take our children on holidays – do things they might not have been able to do at this stage of their lives.
When my mom was still here, I loved taking her to some places she really enjoyed where the pace of life was slower and easier for her.
I have an investment in a shared holiday home which is a good space for family and friends to spend quality time!
I believe it’s important to travel and experience new things but also to give back with your time and life experience; Bruce was on the board of a school for a while, and I will get more involved with Belmont House
Bailey: How did you save?
Sarah: When I was younger, I had a Hospital Plan . I had an accident and I was horrified to find that my hospital plan covered nothing. I had to make other plans – fortunately I was able to cash in an 10 year investment that had just matured.
From that moment on, I decided to have a “What If” fund. If I had money from an investment that matured I put it into the “What If” fund.
Bailey: That’s amazing. I think it’s really important to save for those “what ifs” and “rainy days.”
What really impresses me about Sarah is that the savings aren’t just for her lifestyle, but also for giving back and enriching other people’s lives. She really gets great joy out of helping others, whether it’s time, advice or financial support.
I think it’s incredible that she looks after her sister with Down’s Syndrome. I cannot imagine that being easy.
It makes me think of my fiancé, Sox, who helps his parents as much as he can financially, with the hiring of nurses and caregivers to assist his mom, in the care of his ill dad. It is something I admire so much about this wonderful man of mine.
It does make me think about my family, my future and if I will ever need extra funds not only to support a retired lifestyle, but also for helping my family or looking after someone who may need extra help and extra financial support.
Bailey: What do you wish you had done when you were younger.
Sarah: I Wish I had traveled more as a student. I had a lot of family responsibilities, especially with my sister, so I didn’t experience that student carefree life. I tried to encourage my kids to that.
I didn’t have as many life experiences and only really started in my 30s. I do wish I had taken a more creative career path. I could have done something more creative in fashion and fabric design, but I didn’t have the guts to go to art school. I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to try out for a more creative career.
Life really is full of surprises and I kept an open mind. I really feel lucky to have the life that I do. I didn’t think I would marry again, but being open to life, allowed my life to change.
Had I been dogmatic, I might still be running my travel bureau, competing with online travel and dealing with stranded clients needing to be picked up at the airport, or hating their hotel rooms, for example.
Bailey: It’s so fascinating. I regret not having travelled when I left school too. A lot of my friends took a gap year. I, however, knew exactly what I wanted to do and threw myself into my career – something I do not regret at all. I started my very first radio show at the tender age of 17 years old, whilst I studied my BA Journalism degree. It’s only now that I’m working and earning a salary, that I’m putting more focus on travelling.
Boy, have my eyes been opened. Retirement doesn’t mean OLD or that your life is nearly over. It’s made me realise that it’s a whole new part of life that opens up.
I’m excited for next week when I get to bring you the next part where we talk about the challenges of retirement.