Adventures into subdivision #4

Rusted-on readers will know we’re on a journey into the badlands of subdivision. I posted about it here, here and here.

There’s not been much posting about it since.

You see, if you live in an area with a “heritage overlay” populated by notorious objectors to most developments, you’re best to keep your head down – fly under the radar, if you will – while your development planning application wends its own little solo journey through the black hole that is council’s planning department.

We’ve been sitting on our hands, biding our time, keeping it on the down-low and putting our trust in our consultant and architect that all will turn out OK.

And it has.

Ta-dah! We have planning approval for our little subdivision.

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And it came relatively easily. Council did insist we build a carport for our existing property (adding $8-$10K to our budget), resize a couple of windows in our to-be-built townhouse and add a privacy screen here and there.

All up, the result is brilliant. No major changes to our floorplan and our consultant has already crunched the numbers and found some savings in the budget to help defray the small blowout.

And so it’s begun. We’ve kicked the decluttering into full-on panic mode and are planning a garage sale in the next few weeks (some time just before our triple garage gets demolished).

We’re dealing with council again (waiting on a building permit for the carport they insisted we incorporate) and also wrangling with PowerCor to re-work our power connection from the rear to the front of our property.

We’ve demolished part of our six-foot-tall brick fence to make way for a new driveway, exposing ourselves to the busy-ness of Aberdeen Street. My secret garden is no more.

subdivision geelong, property geelong, midlife, downsizing, being fifty-something

subdivision geelong, property geelong, midlife, downsizing, being fifty-something

subdivision geelong, property geelong, midlife, downsizing, being fifty-something

We’re waiting. As we knew we would be. Always waiting … for a tradie, an approval, a quote, an inspection.

And, of course, I’m still waiting for Kevin McCloud to arrive, be surprised about our plans, dubious about our budget yet intrigued enough to come back again in a few months time to check on our progress (probably in the midst of a 100-year weather event when I decide to announce I’m expecting our third child … oh, hang on).

Anyway, Kevin aside, our project is as frightening as ever. And as exciting as ever. We’re deep in fresh territory for us. Next up is getting our architect to convert our planning drawings into detailed building plans. Then we need to find a builder. Yikes!

For now, we live on a demolition/building site.

Mr P bought me these.

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You know, for when I’m on site, breaking new ground, building stuff, hanging with the trades. I even have a hi-vis vest. #safetyfirst

We’ve moved far beyond the point of no return. We’re taking every day as it comes and committing – boots and all – to the final outcome.

Eye on the prize.

Eye on the prize.

A Brain for Life ~~ Book Review

A Brain for Life – how to optimise your brain’s health by making simple lifestyle changes now

By Nicola Gates, PhD

[Published by ABC Books]

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Being fifty-something, I’m prone to an occasional “senior moment”. Every so often, I wonder if not being able to find my keys is a signal of something more sinister.

Last week I spent three hours in a dementia unit on a research/observation assignment for a client. It’s a small-sized, brand new unit. It’s progressive, people-centred, inclusive and caring – all the things you want in a specialist care facility.

But it’s also a place of sadness, loss, grief and confusion. I stared the coalface of dementia in its (distant) eyes and it’s a world away from my lost keys.

Interacting with staff, residents and families, my heart went out to them all as they navigated a path through a single day of living and working with this soul-sucking disease.

The stats on dementia rates are jaw-dropping. It’s the second-highest killer of Australians today.

According to this book, “… by as early as 2016, dementia is going to be the biggest cause of disease burden. The rates of dementia are between 5 and 15 per cent in 65 year olds, rising to 50 per cent in adults over age 85.”

There’s no known cure. How can we even hope to provide sound, people-centred care for numbers like that?

In A Brain for Life Neuropsychologist Nicola Gates explains how we can all reduce our risk of dementia by starting today with simple lifestyle changes.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve read those articles, too. The light-weight ones that list seven tips for exercising your “brain muscle”. There’s always a daily Sudoku puzzle in the mix. And a brain-boosting superfood to whizz into your breakfast smoothie.

Having read Nicola’s book, I now know those articles don’t even crack the spine of the full story. They’re trifling in terms of the potential we have to influence our future brain health.

Nicola makes a powerful case for direct connections between dementia and a startling array of factors including genetics, gut health, weight, diabetes, cardio vascular health, elevated blood pressure, sleep, sun, stress, smoking, diet, exercise and more. Who knew?

She explains each factor in depth, using easy to grasp language while presenting scientific study results (referenced at the back) as evidence.

“Science Bites” in break-out boxes separate more technical material from the ready flow of the main content and real case studies (mostly Nicola’s patients) inject a compelling human element.

The book is broken into five parts:

  • Boosting Brain Health (diet, gut health, heart and more)
  • Building Brain Reserves (exercise, mental activity and social connectivity)
  • Reducing Brain Burden (stress and depression)
  • Developing a Wise Mind (a satisfying life and a positive “mindstyle”)
  • Managing With Dementia (signs, diagnosis, care and coping).

It’s info-laden with a strong hierarchy of over-arching data and information layering down to dozens and dozens of practical bullet-pointed steps that can help reduce your risk of dementia (and improve your overall health).

There are sections on managing alcohol intake, stress, exercise plans, dietary changes and much more. Strategies galore.

As someone of a certain age, with several of the dementia risk factors Nicola outlines, I got a bucket-load of takeaways from A Brain for Life including this:

“Insulin is so vital to the brain that type 2 diabetes is a serious risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia as those without diabetes, and multiple links or pathways have been identified.”

And this:

“Research suggests that simply increasing the amount of physical activity people perform by 25 per cent could potentially prevent one million future case of dementia worldwide!”

Nicola has cleverly framed the comprehensive information in digestible chunks for consumption  via either a linear path from front to back cover, or a dive-in-to-what-I-need approach.

She never sounds preachy and nor does she threaten the consequences of not taking your brain health by the horns.

Rather, she empowers you with the positive notion that you can reduce your risk of dementia through some relatively simple lifestyle adjustments over a period of time. No quick fixes, just a blue-print for turning the tide bit-by-bit to give yourself a better long-term health outlook.

Sure, it’s that “lifestyle change” theme we’ve heard before; some of it you’ll already know (or think you know). But there’s a ton of new stuff, too, and it’s all stitched together with a super compelling reason to get started. Today.

A final word from Nicola:

“The benefits of a healthy brain are gained any age – it is never too late to start.”


About Nicola Gates PhD

Nicola Gates PhD is a clinical neuropsychologist, neuroscientist, and conjoint lecturer with the Centre of Healthy Brain Ageing UNSW. She earned her Doctorate in Neuropsychiatry investigating physical exercise, cognitive training and psychological wellbeing for dementia prevention and continues to investigate health promotion and disease prevention. When not researching and promoting wellbeing Nicola continues to improve individuals’ lives through her private clinic Brain and Mind Psychology in Sydney.

Disclosure: Nicola sent me a review copy of this book. Opinions are my own.

Is your job making you fat? ~~ Book Review

Is your job making you fat? How to lose weight and control your waist at work

By Ken Lloyd, PhD & Stacey Laura Lloyd (Nero Books)

IS your job making you fat?, Book review, nero books, wellbeing, being fifty-something

When I sighted the cover of this book, I expected a light-weight how-to about “al desko” exercise rationalised by more of the “sitting is the new smoking” message we’re all hearing.

Inside, I found a deep-dive into why our white-collar jobs are making us fat (yes, I’m boxed in that pigeon-hole, even though I don’t work in a cubicle) and a multi-layered approach to turning that chubby-ness around.

Ken Lloyd and Stacey Lloyd have co-produced a remarkably in-depth guide to whittling your waistline by changing your on-the-job behaviour.

It’s a modern malaise, and it’s as real for midlifers as for any other age group: “While approximately 50 percent of all jobs in 1960 required at least moderate physical activity, that number has dropped to a mere 20 percent today. And to make matters worse, a related finding shows that the remaining 80 percent of jobs typically call for minimal physical activity.”

The book’s premise may be based on US data, but there’s no doubt the issue of work-related weight is global.

Across ten brimming-with-tips chapters (and a whopping 290 pages, including bibliography + index), the authors present the problem areas related to work and then bowl them down, one-by-one, with a barrage of can-do actions.

Sure, there’s a chapter on integrating more movement into your work day (think standing desk, treadmill desk, regular breaks and even under-desk pedal pushers), but what’s unexpected are the chapters on the many ways your work routine effects your wellbeing: breakfast, the temptations of the corporate foodscape, your commute, events/conferences, travelling and dinners.

The chapter on job stress is inspired and there’s even a wildcard chapter for unusual occupations / job situations – Conventional Strategies for Unconventional Jobs – covering home-based workers (thank you!), shift workers and more.

The style is creative and engaging with just enough humour. Incredible detail defines hundreds of positive actions you can take to reduce the impact of work on your weight, from how to manage peer pressure from colleagues to better planning your daily commute.

Have you considered varying the route of your daily drive to work to beat boredom and eliminate the sights and landmarks that can become habitual snack-triggers over time?

Wouldn’t you love to curtail the damage done by the super-tempting food and beverage catering at corporate events?

For every problem, the authors provide a range of solutions, see-sawing from the stuff your mum told you to ingenious, new fix-its. Only, with this book, you have it all in the one place, easy-to-access through the Table of Contents or the Index. And the comprehensive Bibliography (that’s a PhD for you) will convince even the most cynical.

You really feel like there’s no excuse for not putting some of these suggestions into action.

Whether you’re a white collar worker, manager or business owner, you’d do well to read-up on how you can improve work-related wellbeing … for yourself and those around you. Need an extra incentive? The correlation between wellbeing and productivity is undeniable.

As the the book’s intro tells us, obesity has been declared a disease. “What’s a major cause of this epidemic? Your job. Consider this book your inoculation. The only thing that should be fat on your job is your paycheck.”

Disclosure: Nero Books sent me a review copy of this book. Opinions are my own.

Adventures into subdivision #3

If you’ve been following along, you already know that we’ve been hokey-pokeying about subdividing our principal home property. I told you a little about it here. And a little more about it here.

It’s a slow old process. It’s already given us dozens of should we/shouldn’t we conversations and shiploads of stress-induced insomnia. And we haven’t even begun.

This week we chose our path. We signed an agreement to get this project moving along.

subdivision Geelong, downsizing, empty nest, being fifty something, boomer, midlife

We (officially) have a subdivision consultant, Adam.

We have an architect, Charles, creating a plan for our new abode.

And we have a detailed estimate of subdivision costs.

Yes, Adam and Charles are brothers. We like that. Between them, they have a deep pool of knowledge and creativity … and a star-studded network of contacts.

Adam’s costings have given us a realistic insight into what this sort of project can cost. We had people telling us we could do this subdivision for $30-$40K. A ridiculous figure when you consider what needs doing.

At this stage, our estimated costs are $108K. That includes the demolition of our existing triple garage and part of our house (gulp), reconstruction of our laundry area and house wall, fencing, landscaping, engineering report, plumbing and drainage (big-time), architect fees, legal, driveway crossing, connection of services, permits, and so on … and on.

It’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s damn scary. And those costs will just get us to the point of having two separate titles, one with our existing home and the other with approved plans for a townhouse.

At that point, there’ll be another fork in the road to consider. We could opt to sell the block with plans, or the existing home, or both. We could engage a builder, further develop the plans and build the townhouse, either to live in, or to sell. Lots of options, wrong-way-go-backs and pull-out points ahead.

subdivision Geelong, downsizing, empty nest, being fifty something, boomer, midlife

For now, we’re sitting tight. Waiting for the fun to get started.

And, I’m trying to remember when it was we started to talk about costings in terms of Ks. It’s now our vernacular. Somewhere along the line, we realised that if it wasn’t a K (or multiples thereof) then it wasn’t worth talking about. At this end of the project, everything gets rounded up. Thinking in Ks is counter-intuitive for someone deep into a second year of buying nothing new. I’m looking forward to using that other, more natural part of my brain that likes to bargain down the dollars (and sometimes the cents) instead of measuring (and spending) in Ks.

subdivision Geelong, downsizing, empty nest, being fifty something, boomer, midlife

For now, our reality is this: a subdivision schedule stretching 34 weeks and 108K ahead.

All being well.

If all the ducks line up.

Let the wild rumpus start!

Lake Elizabeth, deep in the Otways

“It’s dusk. You’re canoe-gliding across a remote forest-fringed lake, the air bristling with birdcalls and eucalyptus aromas. From the water, skeletal grey tree trunks claw for the sky. Your guide gestures towards a ripple and (at last) you’ve got what you came for … a platypus encounter in the wild.”

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

It’s months since I wrote those words for the Great Ocean Road 2015 Travel Planner. And I haven’t stopped thinking about that eerie, other-worldly lake that Bruce Jackson, the playtypus tour operator, described to me across my dining table as we sipped on cappuccinos I’d whipped up with my new coffee machine.

Bruce told me he had the best job in the world, introducing visitors from far and wide to Lake Elizabeth, hidden deep in the Otways in south west Victoria. His canoe tours of the lake serve up a platypus sighting more often than not. Much more often.

Inspired by Bruce, we’ve come to see Lake Elizabeth for ourselves. We haven’t come at dusk. We’ve come mid-morning after spending the night with friends sharing a bottle of wine and a crackling fire in our rented digs in the nearby town of Forrest.

Although we’ve come without Bruce, we’re secretly hoping to glimpse a platypus. It’s how they roll in these parts where the wildlife is both elusive and very spottable. You might not spy the legendary Otways Black Panther or an extinct-or-not spotted tiger quoll, but kangaroos, koalas and a legion of birds are on the cards. In fact, on the super-scenic seven kilometre rainforest drive from Forrest to Lake Elizabeth car park, we have to brake to a crawl to give way to a kangaroo casually making its way across the road.

In the car park I’m struck by the towering, straight-as-light-poles trees. I wonder whether they’re Mountain Ash, but I’m not sure.

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

We take the path to the lake, winding along the river’s edge, past solemn reflection pools, ferny walls, and lush new growth. It’s been raining overnight, so it’s muddy in spots and the path narrows and widens to accommodate hefty tree trunks. There are a couple of steep patches but the walk engenders a real sense of journeying into the forest.

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

And then it opens out onto the space of Lake Elizabeth, and we arrive.

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

Gnarly ghost trees grope skywards from the still water, fringed at every edge by looming forest. We find Bruce’s canoes chained to a timber boardwalk at the shoreline. There are signed walks that take in Lake Elizabeth beach and loop right around the waterway.
We decide to pause at the boardwalk, take in the scenery and keep an eagle eye out for any movement on the water’s mirror surface. We’ve come for the vista, not the wildlife, but it doesn’t hurt to surveil (just in case).

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

We learn (from an interpretive signage panel) that Lake Elizabeth formed in 1952 when heavy rainfall caused a landslide to dam the river, creating a lake within the valley. The ghost trees are remnants of the valley forest.

I wonder when the platypus arrived. Before or after the damming?

We have no luck with a wildlife sighting, but we’re entranced by the renowned scenery … it’s beautiful, still and evocative.

Eventually, we drag ourselves away from the vista and wander slowly back along the path, through the lush forest and ferns to the carpark.

Lake Elizabeth, you’ve been quite an experience. We got what we came for.

And we’ll be back. Maybe next time with Bruce. At dusk.


The Ultimate Bucket List for Over 50s

Being fifty-something naturally boosts bucket list cogitation up the dinner party conversation agenda, even though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

To do, or not to do a bucket list? Are you on the yay or nay team?

I’m far better at listing than ticking off. For me, the process of listing (even if only in my head) is a positive one. It helps me prioritise what’s important and discount what’s not. It’s a framework, a rough-around-the-edges planning tool to help me visualise what’s ahead. And gives me some convo fodder for when the subject inevitably comes up around the dinner table.

Curious about what other fifty-somethings are adding to their bucket lists or seeking some inspiration for your own list (or conversation mastery)? Check out this Ultimate Bucket List infographic from Key Retirement. It’s based on UK data; I figure being fifty-something in this age of global citizenship is a universal human condition.

How does your bucket list shape up?

bucket list, ultimate bucket list, being fifty-something, boomers, midlife



Where there’s a will …

NB: This is sponsored content.

For a variety of reasons, people might feel they have not been reasonably provided for when someone dies, whether it’s a family member or someone who they share a close relationship with.

If that’s you and you have no legal background, chances are you’ll have no idea where to begin exploring your options to contest a will. You’ll be stressed and emotional. You’ll be anxious about the potential costs and uncertain outcomes.

Challenging a will is not an everyday life skill you simply pick up from your parents or via osmosis during high school. There’s no “Contest A Will 101” offered at the local TAFE college either. In fact, I can’t name a single soul in my circle who has challenged a will.

But, if you do feel you’ve been unfairly treated, I imagine the compulsion to right the wrong is powerful and not likely to fade until you confirm your rights.

It’s a complex process and you’re going to need professional help to understand your entitlements and the potential of going after what you feel you deserve.

This is where specialist lawyers can assist.

Challenge A Will lawyers can help you to contest a will. They can establish whether or not you are an eligible person to claim a provision from an estate and guide you through the process.

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Let me tell you a story …

When my sister Gay passed away, it was sudden and unexpected. She was only forty-seven. As a family, we were unprepared. Fortunately, Gay had been super organised in her personal affairs. Just three days before she died, I’d popped in with her to see her solicitor to finalise her will. It was a fluke – it was my birthday and we were wandering into the city for a celebratory shopping expedition and happened by her solicitor’s office. Gay twigged she had papers waiting for her signature and we popped in and got the job done. Not because she had any inkling of what was coming (none of us did) but because she was due to travel overseas within the week. We were living in a post 9/11 world that told us anything could happen, so she was keen to make her wishes clear. Tying up the loose ends.

Then, the inexplicable happened. While we lurched around in the darkness of shock and sadness, we at least knew what Gay wished for, how she wanted her affairs and estate handled. For us, it was black and white.

It’s not always that way. For many families there are grey areas – out of date wills, blended family units, divorces, new relationships, brothers and sisters by other mothers or fathers, family squabbles, and the list goes on. All families wax and wane, lose touch with one another and reconnect at different times. Relationships change and evolve. As do responsibilities and expectations.

Although a will is all about contingency for a future event, its provisions reflect the here and now, the current status quo, the will-maker’s current state of mind. And not everyone is as organised as Gay was in updating their will, to mirror the here and now as it changes.

It makes sense, logically and morally, that our legal system allows those who feel the need to take action to contest or challenge a will. And it makes sense that specialist lawyers guide the journey.