Main News RSS news feed from en-AU Sex at 50 vs sex at 20

Sex isn't just about promoting intimacy and closeness, it can also be a powerful tool for protecting and improving health, and it's a lot of fun. Studies now confirm that you can enjoy sex for as long as you wish, no matter your age or gender. Naturally, sex at 50 or 60 may not be like it is at 20 or 30, but it's certainly not only for the young.

In fact, you may find sex more enjoyable in your later years. With experience comes knowledge, and it's likely you now know more about yourself and what works for you. In fact, the self-confidence and independence that comes with age can be very attractive to your spouse or potential partners.

And with children grown and work less demanding, couples are better able to relax and enjoy one another without so many distractions.

What is sex drive?We still haven't pinpointed exactly what sex drive or libido is, or how to measure it accurately, but low libido describes a decreased interest in sexual activity. While it has been found that hormones do play a role, other factors – physical, social and psychological – all work together to make up your sex drive.

It’s common to lose interest in sex from time to time, and libido levels vary through life. It’s also normal for your interest not to match your partner’s at times but here's how your age can affect your sex life and libido.

In your 20s

MenTestosterone is needed in the body for men to become sexually aroused and the twentysomething male still has plenty of it to go around. With only slightly less testosterone than his teenage self, a male's sex drive in his 20s is still typically very high. But it is also a time when anxieties about sex (probably due to inexperience) come to the surface. Anxiety may be part of the reason why around 8 per cent of men in their 20s report erectile dysfunction (ED).

ED can be bought on by medical matters or mental health issues. It can also be a sign that you're at risk for heart disease, so talk to your doctor about persisting symptoms.

WomenWomen are likely to be more fertile from teens to late 20s than in the years that follow. Researchers speculate that this may make you think harder about when you have sex, and who with. They also think that female desire increases just as fertility starts to decrease towards the end of your 20s.

Women having kidsPregnancy and childbirth affect sex life at any age and it's different for everyone. Changes in hormones may mean a higher libido at times, especially during the second trimester, and a drop off at others. Changes in your own body and a huge lifestyle adjustment when you give birth can also affect the time and energy you have for sex.

30s and early 40s

MenThese years bring a small fall in male hormone levels, but many men continue to have a strong sex drive. According to the Mayo Clinic, testosterone levels start to slowly decrease around age 35 by about 1 per cent per year. This small fall can have an effect on your sex drive but family and work stress, long hours, and other commitments can also affect your desire for sex.

A small part of the pharmaceutical industry has been pushing the idea of the 'male menopause' to encourage the use of either testosterone supplements or other medications like Viagra. But there is no male equivalent of the sudden collapse in sex hormones when a woman hits the menopause, and most men in this age group are still experiencing about two orgasms a week without any medical help.

WomenThis may be the time in your life when your sex drive is at its highest. One study showed women between 27 and 45 were having more frequent and more powerful sexual fantasies than in their youth. They are also more likely to have sex sooner in a new relationship.

50s and beyond

MenIn this group, a lot depends on whether a man is still fit and healthy. There's no reason to avoid sex if you're in good physical and mental health. ED does become more common with older age; erections may be less firm and less frequent.

However, it may not be age itself that's the reason. Health problems that also become more common with age, like diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and the medications that you take to treat them, can also play a factor. Talk to your doctor about options for treating ED, if necessary.

WomenWomen may find they have a higher sexual desire from this age. With children flying the nest and there being less worry around pregnancy, you may have an increased interest in sex.

However, oestrogen levels drop the closer you get to menopause, which might put a damper on your libido. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, and sleep problems can all be symptoms of menopause and affect your interest and desire for sex. Medications, hormones and lubrication can help; talk to your doctor for your options.

Sex after a heart attackIf you have had a heart attack in the past, or if you have heart disease, you may find yourself less sexually active than before. Sex triggering another heart attack is a common fear, but it is still possible to enjoy an active sex life.

Check with your doctor before resuming sexual activity. Participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program to improve your fitness. Wait to have sex if you have advanced heart failure, severe valve disease, uncontrolled arrhythmia, unstable angina, unstable or severe heart disease. Once your condition is under control, ask your doctor when it’s safe to resume sexual activity.

Overall, the most important tool when it comes to sex is communication. Talk to your partner about needs and desires (yours and theirs); this can help you keep a healthy sex life as you both age. Be honest about physical and emotional satisfaction and come up with alternatives if something is not working for you. Don't be afraid to put sex into the diary, setting aside time to be intimate can do wonders for a relationship.

Have you been able to determine what factors affect your libido?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Tue, 29 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Save on your energy bill

You can’t avoid death and taxes. But you can delay death and minimise tax. You can control your electricity costs, too. You can’t avoid them, but you can control how you access electricity and how much you use. Here are six strategies that can deliver serious savings.

Save with solarThey say you have to spend money to make money. The same can apply to energy savings – spend to save down the track. But what should you spend on and how much can you save? A solar set-up and most of the power bill is the usual answer. But solar is not inevitably cost effective. It will reduce your bills, but for it to pay off the initial expense you need to be in the right city and use the right amount of electricity at the right time of day. If you’re already in the habit of using a minimal amount of power and then only on the weekends and in the evening, it can take as much as a decade to offset the initial installation cost of a solar set up. That will be worse in cities without consistent solar radiation such as Hobart. That said, if you are in one of the sunnier capitals such as Perth or Adelaide and have the time to use appliances when the sun is shining, and also use the power on major loads such as hot water, the sums improve considerably. It’s claimed that your average household in these cities can pay off the system in less than 5 years. It’s clearly worth considering, with the proviso that you have to do the sums for your particular circumstances to make sure it stacks up.

Super energy efficient LED lightingLED lighting is the low hanging fruit if you’re looking to save money on your electricity bill. If you still have old school incandescent bulbs or halogen downlights in your home, you are wasting money. LED lights can cost slightly more than an old school light bulb, but they last 10 times as long and use only a fraction of the electricity. The other added benefit is that LEDs don’t lose their brightness like old-style bulbs do. And it doesn’t matter what shape or size the bulb is, there is an LED alternative. If you are using those curly and awkward energy-saving fluorescents bulbs, there are LED energy efficient replacement options available. These types of light bulbs are rapidly becoming redundant. They are simply not as good as LED. You can even get large LED bulbs for the shed that draw a mere 25 watts and give you more light with a better spread than an old 100 watt bulb. They didn’t hand out the Nobel Prize to the guys who worked out how to make white light from LEDs for nothing. Are LEDs sounding like a good option for you? Need to find an electrician near you who can help you make the right LED choice? Keep reading to find out.

Reduce your hot water costsOne of the two major things that use the lion’s share of energy in most houses is hot water. Electric storage hot water is so wasteful that state governments discourage their installation in new builds. The easiest electric bill savings trick is to invest in an energy efficient gas hot water system. It is undoubtedly a cheaper way of keeping your hot water flowing. But bear in mind that gas doesn’t make sense if you install solar panels. Because you are generating your own power with solar, it is more economical to use it to power a major load. Doubling up with a solar hot water system also makes no financial sense because it is not worth the cost of putting solar panels in to run less than half your energy needs. For preventive measures, find an electrician near you to discuss the best options to arrange and install the most cost effective hot water system for your specific situation.

Air conditioning options to cool your electricity billsThe other big user of electricity in the home is heating and cooling. If you’ve made the decision to go with solar, reverse cycle air conditioning maximises your solar investment. For decent energy savings you should run the heating and cooling during the day and let the thermostat and insulation get you through the evening. If you don’t have solar, your best bet is to heat with gas and use an evaporative air conditioner in summer. Again that depends on where you live. Brisbane is too humid for evaporative coolers to be effective, but somewhere that mostly has dry heat such as Adelaide is perfect. The other option to look at is a split zone reverse cycle system. This ensures you only heat or cool the rooms in your home that need it.

Turn it off if you’re not using it!You’ve heard it before but there’s no harm repeating it – turn things off if you’re not using them. A fan is not cooling anything if there’s no-one in the room. And your wiring and switchboard should be checked by an electrical maintenance technician to make sure everything is working as it should. All the little things add up over time and you can make savings by paying attention to detail. The most important detail is making sure you pick the right electricity ‘plan’. If the same organisation offers one plan that is more expensive than another, ask yourself the obvious question – what extra am I going to get for more money? It can’t be more electricity, so go with the cheapest plan. 

Understanding energy ratingsLast but not least is the energy rating on your appliances. When you get something new like a fridge or a washing machine, pay serious attention to the star energy ratings. There are two labels to keep an eye out for: the six-star label and the ‘super efficiency’ 10-star label for appliances rated at seven or higher.


An energy efficient machine is a good investment, especially for things that you use often. So go for as many stars as you can get to make the most savings and pay less on your electricity bill. The energy rating label is full of information, so take the time to read it and make an informed choice about the things that you have electricity for.

It makes a lot of sense to put at least some of these things in place as you sort out a retirement plan. Keeping unavoidable expenses such as electricity to a minimum frees up cash for better things. Why not plan to enjoy yourself instead? It’ll take your mind off death and taxes.

Are you worried about your energy bills? How many of these energy saving tips will you try?

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Tue, 29 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Is a GST increase on the cards?

The possibility of lifting the GST rate was raised in the most unlikely of places on Monday – the Victorian premier’s press conference to provide the latest COVID-19 update.

It has become somewhat of a joke among those who regularly watch the premier’s press conferences that some of the questions journalists ask are being directly provided from federal politicians in Canberra, but Premier Daniel Andrews made it official when he was asked about the possibility of a GST increase.

Channel Seven journalist Laurel Irving asked whether Premier Andrews would consider giving up payroll tax in return for an increase in the GST.

He responded: “I wonder who in Canberra asked you to ask this question, Laurel! Interesting.”

Talk about the possibility of raising the GST, or reforming the GST system to get the economy growing again in the wake of the damage caused by the pandemic, raised its head in July, when independent firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a discussion paper on the topic.

Australia’s current rate of GST is 10 per cent, which is well below the OECD average of 19 per cent.

The PwC analysis showed that lifting GST to 12.5 per cent and extending it to include fresh food, education and health would generate $40 billion a year.

When asked about the possibility of increasing the rate back in July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison avoided giving a definitive response, while treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government’s “focus had been on cutting taxes, recognising that tax reform was one of the key areas that we need to drive forward on”.

Premier Andrews said there might be an opportunity for tax reform but said that the conversation needed to go deeper than “just jacking up taxes”.

“I’m not aware of a proposal,” Mr Andrews said. “If one came forward, we would look at it.

“Tax reform and just jacking up taxes are two very different things.

“It is easy for people in Canberra just to sort of point a finger at the states and say why don’t you abolish a whole lot of these things,” he said.

“Payroll tax supports the provision of police, nurses, teachers and all sorts of different things. It is a significant percentage of our revenue base.”

Mr Andrews also attacked the way that the GST was currently distributed among the states, suggesting it was unfair.

“We don’t get 100 cents in the dollar that Victorians pay in the goods and services tax, we get, through a convoluted and, we think, unfair formula, we get a percentage of that,” he said.

Any time GST increases are discussed, there is also the issue that it hurts those on fixed incomes, including retirees, hardest.

While some models for GST increases look at increasing welfare payments to adjust for these changing circumstances, this also creates further problems.

“I gave a speech, I think at CEDA some time ago, where I talked about the notion that increases in the GST can be very problematic in that by the time you compensate everybody for the fact they’re worse off, there isn’t much left,” Mr Andrews said.

Do you think the federal government will use the COVID crisis to try and push through a GST increase? Would you support a GST increase? Would you support a GST increase if it were accompanied by an increase to the Age Pension?

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Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Older, fitter, sharper

Today’s older people are fitter and healthier than their counterparts 30 years ago, according to a study by Finnish researchers.

The research, conducted by the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, compared the physical and cognitive performance of people between the ages of 75 and 80 with that of same-aged people in the 1990s.

It found this age group now walks up to 33 per cent faster than in 1990. And “muscle strength, walking speed, reaction speed, verbal fluency, reasoning and working memory are nowadays significantly better than they were in people at the same age born earlier”.

“Higher physical activity and increased body size explained the better walking speed and muscle strength among the later-born cohort,” said doctoral student Kaisa Koivunen, “whereas the most important underlying factor behind the cohort differences in cognitive performance was longer education.”

Increased longevity is being matched by improved quality of life, says postdoctoral researcher Matti Munukka.

“The cohort of 75 and 80-year-olds born later has grown up and lived in a different world than did their counterparts born three decades ago. There have been many favourable changes. These include better nutrition and hygiene, improvements in healthcare and the school system, better accessibility to education and improved working life.”

The study’s principal investigator, Professor Taina Rantanen, says the results suggest that our understanding of older age is old-fashioned.

“From an ageing researcher’s point of view, more years are added to midlife, and not so much to the utmost end of life. Increased life expectancy provides us with more non-disabled years, but at the same time, the last years of life come at higher and higher ages, increasing the need for care. Among the ageing population, two simultaneous changes are happening: continuation of healthy years to higher ages and an increased number of very old people who need external care.”

The study started in 1989, analysing 500 people born between 1910 and 1914.

This earliest cohort grew up when Finland was primarily a farming economy, dependent on manual labour. They endured the turmoil of the Russian Civil War of 1918, were likely to have fought in World War II and many of them were forced to leave school early to work at physically taxing jobs.

Later cohorts in the study spent more time at school and enjoyed upgrades in social services.

In 2018, ABC News asked: “Were our grandparents really healthier than us?”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) told them Australian life expectancy had increased due to “an ageing population and improvements in social, economic and living standards”.

It found that Australian life expectancy had improved dramatically since 1910 and improvements in life expectancy for people over 65 had accelerated over the past 20 years.

“Compared to a century ago, older people today are much more likely to die from a chronic disease than an infectious disease.”

On diet, it called a draw: we eat too much processed and energy-rich food these days but eat less from backyard vegetable gardens.

“The amount of fat and meat they were eating had a huge effect on people's life spans, especially men,” said University of Sydney medical historian Peter Hobbins. “These days we have a lot more information about eating well, even if we don't eat well.”

On physical activity, our forebears won.

“While cars, computers and household appliances have made our lives more efficient, they've also removed a lot of the health-protective movements our grandparents' generation would have done without thinking.”

However, modern Australians have better access to medicine and medical care. There is national responsibility for healthcare, improved mental healthcare, an awareness of the hazards of cigarette smoking and improvements in sanitation and sewerage systems, food inspections and building safety standards.

Do you think we are now healthier and stay that way for longer? Can you explain your view?

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Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Why virtual violence is a problem Simon Coghlan, University of Melbourne and Lucy Sparrow, University of Melbourne

Violence against animals in video games is ubiquitous. Players can kill or torture animals in various popular games, including Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto V. The rise of this (increasingly realistic) trend in games, along with people’s tendency to go along with it, raises important questions.

Violence against humans in video games has long been contentious – underpinned by the never-ending debate over whether on-screen violence begets the real thing. But violence against animals in video games has attracted considerably less attention.

In a recently published paper, we argue there is good reason to think violence against animals in video games is problematic – perhaps even more so than in-game violence against humans. We think game violence against animals is more likely to promote disrespect for their living counterparts.

The jury is outIn 2005, Australia banned a first-person shooter game called Postal 2, in which players could mutilate and desecrate (virtual) human bodies. Australia has controversially banned several games available in other countries because of depictions of violence and other potentially objectionable themes.

Players evidently have varying views on harming virtual animals. Some express concern or remorse – one gamer wrote on a forum:

It’s weird how bad I feel about killing animals in the game … I will actively try and shoot guys off horses instead of just shooting the horses.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – itself a somewhat troubled organisation – has criticised games it says “promote hurting and killing” animals. Examples include whale hunting in Assassin’s Creed, and fishing and catching bugs in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Other players have no such qualms, however, with one writing:

I kill humans in games all the time. Why would I care about animals?

Many share this view. Video game ‘amoralists’ say abusing animals (or humans) in video games can’t be wrong, as the ‘victims’ are virtual and no living being is hurt.

It’s not clear exactly why players feel so differently about in-game violence. Attitudes towards in-game violence may be shaped by personal views, social mores, gaming culture and also the amount someone plays violent games.

If video games can promote particular ethical messages, could certain games encourage disrespect for living things?

First-person shooters, such as Call of Duty, have been around for more than 45 years now. They’re some of the most popular video games today. jit/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

A moral dilemma in plain sightSocial scientists have long debated whether violent video games cause antisocial attitudes towards other people. Some think they might, but conclusive evidence for a causal link is lacking. The moral issue of violence against animals in video games has received much less philosophical attention.

Both animals and humans are often portrayed as objects to kill and harm for fun in gaming. However, animals are presented in even more disposable ways. They are often mere tools for players to kill to complete quests, or to gain materials and trophies.

This is true even for games in which players are encouraged to reflect morally on their in-game actions. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the game’s characters will approve or disapprove of a wide variety of player actions. But harming non-aggressive wild animals is not one of the things that prompts a moral reaction.

While societal respect for animals is growing (albeit slowly), animals today are routinely treated very badly. We confine them to factory farms, put them on live export ships where many suffer (and even die) and ‘humanely’ kill unwanted companion animals.

Many of us ignore these realities. Morally speaking, animals are relatively invisible to society – whereas other humans generally are not. In this context, depicting animals as disposable commodities in video games could reinforce disrespect towards them, at least for many players.

Some games may help normalise the mistreatment and moral invisibility of animals.

Examining our prejudicesSo if video games can, in fact, reinforce disrespect for animals, does this mean we should ban or boycott them? We don’t advocate that. However, it would be useful for scientists to investigate whether video games do help or hinder social respect for animals.

Game designers may also consider depicting animals in ways that encourage (or at least don’t inadvertently discourage) respecting them. Some already do this. In Red Dead Redemption, killing your horse leads to the same loss of ‘honour’ points as killing an innocent person.

In the Red Dead game series, ‘honour’ is a system that measures the social acceptability of the main character in his world. Specific in-game actions are considered honourable or dishonourable. ekkun/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Finally, players themselves could choose to become more aware of how animals are portrayed in the various games they spend hours of their lives absorbed in.

Given the enormous popularity and ongoing transformation of video games, there is an opportunity here for all of us to reassess our often unjust treatment of animals.

Simon Coghlan, Senior Research Fellow in Digital Ethics, Centre for AI and Digital Ethics, School of Computing and Information Systems, University of Melbourne and Lucy Sparrow, PhD Candidate in Human-Computer Interaction, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

Do you think that online violence begets the real thing?

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Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Simple but essential exercises

As we age, niggling aches and pains can be seen as a sign it’s time to slow down and take things easy. But slowing down too much can do more harm than good.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) points out that movement keeps muscles strong and helps maintain a healthy weight, which also protects the joints as we age. While it might feel like movement is the last thing you need when aches set in, regular activity can actually help manage joint stiffness, pain and fatigue, which can affect mood and mental health and wellbeing, too. Keeping active can also cut the risk, or help manage, conditions like heart disease and stroke, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Despite this, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of over-65s do no strengthening activities at all, putting them at increased risk of falls and other health problems, according to CSP research.

“Movement is essential for every aspect of our health. Our bodies are designed to move, and not doing so is harmful to our health, muscles and joints. As we become older, this can also increase the risk of falling,” says physiotherapist and CSP professional adviser, Fran Hallam.

The good news is, it’s never too late to start – so if your activity levels could use a boost, here’s what the pros at the CSP advise.

How much exercise should you do? Studies show that 3–5 per cent of muscle is lost every year from the age of 30 onwards, if steps aren’t taken to maintain it. Official guidelines suggest adults should do activities to strengthen muscles and bones and challenge balance and coordination at least twice a week, as this will not only prevent falls, but also improve mood, help sleep patterns and bring overall health and wellbeing benefits.

Do things you actually enjoy Exercise doesn’t have to be torture or punishment! Physiotherapists recommend everyone finds a physical activity they enjoy, so they’ll keep going. Try involving family and friends for support and motivation too – you’re much more likely to maintain an exercise routine if you do it with other people.

Then set goals – big or small – to keep you motivated, and pace yourself by starting slowly and gradually building up your activity. The CSP says it’s okay to ache a bit, but if pain persists or gets worse, ease back and go slower.

What sort of exercise should older people do? “You don’t need to lift huge weights to strengthen your muscles,” says Ms Hallam. “You can start to build strength by completing everyday activities, like carrying shopping, washing the car and digging in the garden.”

Seek advice if you’re unsure If you have a history of joint pain or problems, or any other ongoing health issues, it’s always advisable to speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime. And if joint problems are a concern, a physiotherapist will be able to advise on how best to proceed with an exercise program.

Six activities that benefit older people Unsure where to start? Consider incorporating some of these into your routine:

1. Aerobic exercise Swimming or walking briskly will raise heart and breathing rates, benefit the cardiovascular system and help keep weight in check. Exercising in a swimming pool can include walking, squats, marching and side-stepping as well as swimming. All these activities improve fitness and are low impact on the joints.

2. Strength and balance activities Tai chi, racquet sports and Pilates can help maintain muscle mass and improve posture and stability.

3. Weight-bearing exercise Activities such as washing the car, carrying shopping or gardening can help maintain bone density and strength. “If you incorporate these activities into your daily routine, it won’t be long before you start to feel the benefits,” says Ms Hallam. “But as with any activity, our bodies adapt quickly, so always make sure you’re challenging yourself – getting off the bus a stop earlier or carrying the shopping a little further, for example.”

3. Gentle stretching Stretching muscles through activities such as tai chi or yoga will help promote flexibility and range of motion in joints

4. Avoiding sitting for long periods Develop prompts to remind yourself to get on your feet – stand to make phone calls or get up during the advert breaks when watching TV, for instance.

5. Gym machines Joining a gym is a good way to access resistance machines or weights. Most gyms have personal trainers or staff who can show you how to use the machines safely.

6. Home exercises If you’re not a member of a gym, there are many body weight exercises you can do at home. The following exercises are recommended by physiotherapists to help improve coordination and balance in older people. They should be done daily, or at least twice a week.

Sit to stand Sit tall near the front of a chair with your feet slightly back. Lean forwards slightly and stand up (with your hands on the chair if needed). Step back until your legs touch the chair, then slowly lower yourself back into the chair. Repeat 10 times.

Heel raises Stand tall, holding on to a sturdy surface such as the kitchen sink or worktop, then lift your heels off the floor, taking your weight into your big toes. Try not to lean forwards or backwards. Hold for three seconds, then lower with control. Repeat 10 times.

Toe raises Stand tall holding the same support, then raise your toes, taking your weight on your heels. Don’t stick your bottom out. Hold for three seconds, then lower with control. Repeat 10 times.

One leg stand Stand close to your support and hold it with one hand. Balance on one leg, keeping the supported knee soft and your posture upright. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

Heel-toe stand Stand tall, with one hand on your support. Put one foot directly in front of the other to make a straight line. Look ahead, take your hand off the support as you’re able and balance for 10 seconds. Take the front foot back to hip-width apart. Then place the other foot in front and balance for 10 seconds.

Heel-toe walking Stand tall, with one hand on your support. Look ahead and walk 10 steps forwards, placing one foot directly in front of the other so the feet form a straight line. Aim for a steady walking action. Take the feet back to hip width apart, turn around slowly and repeat the steps in the other direction.

What do you do to stay active every day? Are you a member of a gym or do you prefer to exercise outside or at home?

– With PA

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Related articles: Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
More Aussies finding the bargains

Second-hand sales have seen a surge in 2020, with eBay revealing the equivalent weight of 900 double-decker buses has been saved from landfill due to people buying from second-hand shops.

There’s been a particular increase in the purchase of preloved items during the pandemic. Maybe it’s because we’ve been stuck at home and wanted a cheap and eco-friendly way to spruce up our interiors.

Head of preloved at eBay, Emma Grant, says: “It seems that lockdown ultimately sped up the transition to a greater sustainability conscious society, as eBay witnessed more preloved listings and sales post-lockdown, compared to before.

“With people’s wallets becoming tighter, an uneasiness about going out shopping, and after some time away from the materialism of day-to-day normality, the nation was more in tune than ever with charities, small businesses and caring for the planet. Choosing to shop second hand is a great opportunity to keep the green recovery front of mind and ensure we all play our part to reduce fast fashion where possible.”

Whether you’re new to second-hand shopping or have been a long-time fan of thrifting, you’ll definitely relate to some of these things.

It requires a bit more work than average shopping … Shopping has become ludicrously easy these days, particularly if you’re scouring for items online. Second-hand shopping, while still straightforward – particularly on sites like Depop or eBay – requires a little more effort. It can take more time to search for the perfect item, and every so often you’ll be disappointed when you find your dream jacket/cabinet/bowl – but it’s not the right size or colour.

But it’s totally worth the effort Nothing can beat the feeling when you’ve found the item. You’ve either been hunting for it for years or have just stumbled across it, and now you can’t imagine life without it.

Whether it’s a chest of drawers looking like it was specifically made for your house, or a vintage designer piece you got for a steal, nothing can match the euphoric feeling of unearthing the perfect second-hand item.

The things you buy are individual and unusual When people come over, you’re often asked where your plates are from, or where you got that funky lightshade. You relish the surprise on their faces when you tell them actually, it was thrifted – and no, unfortunately they can’t go out and buy a copy.

Vintage shopping is a way for you to express your style and personality. Plus, it’s quite nice imagining the exciting life your chair lived before settling in your living room.

It’s great for the environment Upcycling items and giving them a new lease of life is great for the environment, and this is felt particularly keenly in the world of fashion. As many as two second-hand fashion items were sold every three seconds on eBay between January and July this year, and buying vintage is a much eco-friendlier alternative to buying something new.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, clothing production has more or less doubled in the past 15 years – in part due to the rise of fast fashion. This is having a huge impact on the environment, as the textiles industry uses 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources a year.

You save money There’s no doubt second-hand shopping is good for your wallet. Prices tend to be cheaper, pretty much across the board, but just take fashion brands: the average price of preloved items from H&M on eBay is $14, and Gucci is just $210 – much less than retail value.

Some of your friends just don’t get it While many of us have wised up to the benefits of thrifting, not everyone ‘gets it’. There’s always one person in your friendship group who just can’t understand why you’d want to have someone else’s plates or wear an old pair of jeans – but you know full well they’ve been cleaned, are good for the environment, and are now unique to you.

Do you shop second hand? What's been your best find?

– With PA

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Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Super windfall coming your way?

Keep an eye on your bank account this week, as you may receive an unexpected deposit.

Whether you’re working or fully retired, you may have been underpaid super without even knowing it.

But the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and the federal government know it and have given Aussie businesses a chance to make good through the superannuation guarantee amnesty program.

For many who have been underpaid, the first they’ll know of it will be a deposit of up to $1500 added to their super fund.

Some may receive more, some less, but the amnesty is expected to pay around 393,000 workers past and present up to $588 million in unpaid super.

Money repaid as part of the amnesty includes about $440 million to super funds, including $132 million in late payment offsets and 10 per cent interest for each year the payment was outstanding, says a Small Caps report.

Another $33 million will be refunded through agreed payment plans.

And this, according to some, is a drop in the ocean.

It is estimated that workers are shortchanged more than $3 billion in unpaid super each year, leading to calls for harsher penalties for those employers.

Unpaid or underpaid amounts could date back all the way to 1992 when superannuation started.

The money will be put directly into workers’  super funds; retirees will receive a bank deposit.

The federal government is effectively granting a reprieve for businesses that have underpaid employees and giving them the opportunity to make good.

It seems the ‘guilt trip’ took a bit of time to work on some businesses, with around 55 per cent of those that confessed to not making compulsory payments applying in the last week of the amnesty.

An amazing 7000 businesses applied on the final day, ensuring that payments made before the cut-off were tax deductible.

Any companies that haven’t participated in the amnesty but are discovered to have underpaid superannuation face severe penalties.

The amnesty aimed to reunite “Australians with money that is rightfully theirs, making sure every dollar that is owed to workers goes back to them”, said Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, Senator Jane Hume.

Have you received an unexpected windfall?

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Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Vale Susan Ryan

Susan Ryan in 1984, the first woman to be appointed to cabinet in a Labor government. Chris Wallace, University of Canberra

The politician who achieved equal rights legislation for women in Australia, Hon Susan Ryan AO, died unexpectedly yesterday in Sydney aged 77, still fighting for fairness in a country challenged by deep inequalities.

In 1983, new Prime Minister Bob Hawke appointed Ms Ryan Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. She was the first woman to be appointed to cabinet in a Labor government.

Rivalled only by the achievement of voting rights for women earlier in the 20th century, the Sex Discrimination Act Ms Ryan created and saw through parliament was the single biggest step forward for women in Australian history.

Read more: The larrikin as leader: how Bob Hawke came to be one of the best (and luckiest) prime ministers

Ms Ryan was a wry, intelligent, witty and energetic force for good in public life. She rose to the biggest policy challenges besetting Australia – inequality and discrimination – and achieved real change.

She brought brains and spirit to the big fights and relished them. Not for Ms Ryan any slinking to the sidelines, crushed by sledges and slights.

The first time I saw her was at a party in 1983, in the Old Parliament House office of her Hawke Government cabinet colleague, Peter Walsh. Here they led a raucous wine-fuelled rendition of a Catholic hymn, followed by an equally spirited version of The Internationale. Ms Ryan was from a generation of politicians who knew how to fight, have fun and get really important things done.


Born in Maroubra in 1942, she was educated at the Brigidine School where she absorbed the lesson that “St Brigid was the equal of St Patrick, she worked with him in partnership”. It was here she registered too that:

… women were as clever, energetic and knowledgeable as men (but) society at large and the Church placed women in an inferior position and fought hard to keep us there.

Ms Ryan was the first in her family and school to win a scholarship to the University of Sydney. She studied education, expecting to go on to a career in teaching. After graduating she married public servant and later diplomat Richard Butler. “Because of this I lost my scholarship and had to pay back the scholarship money,” Ms Ryan recalled, a penalty not suffered by men in the same position.

In 1965, Ms Ryan and Mr Butler moved to Canberra and the next six years saw her study for an MA in English Literature at the Australian National University, tutor at the Canberra College of Advanced Education (now University of Canberra), and become a founding member of the Belconnen Branch of the ALP.

This was interrupted by two periods living overseas when Mr Butler was posted first to Vienna and then, in the early 1970s, to New York just as the foundational texts of second-wave feminism by Kate Millett, Gloria Steinem and others, primed by earlier work by Betty Friedan, were published. Ryan’s fellow Sydney University alumna Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch was part of the mix too, giving Ms Ryan and her peers revolutionary insights into the outrageous injustices permeating their lives as women.


Ms Ryan returned to Canberra in 1971 with their two children but without Mr Butler, whom she divorced the following year. Her energetic, entwined Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) and ALP activism were conducted while completing her ANU masters degree and being employed as head of the Australian Council of State School Organisations.

Ms Ryan worked hard for the Whitlam government’s election in 1972. Two federal elections later, at the “Dismissal” election of December 1975, she was elected a Labor senator for the ACT. When Bill Hayden succeeded Gough Whitlam as opposition leader after the 1977 election, he made Ryan Labor’s first ever woman frontbencher with responsibility for communications, the arts, media and women’s affairs.

Focused intently on the development of high-quality policy, Ms Ryan was on the progressive end of the Labor party and impatient with its left/right factional battles, which she perceived as more about personal power struggles than genuine differences over ideas.

Ms Ryan joined the Hayden-led Centre Left faction, home of federal parliamentary Labor’s sophisticated policy thinkers who modernised the ALP platform in a progressive direction focused on jobs and social justice.

These policies were embraced and implemented by the Hawke government on its election in March 1983, with tremendous success.

Susan Ryan devoted her post-parliament life to rights for the aged, especially for older women. AAP/Lukas Coch

Ms Ryan was initially sceptical of the virtues of Bob Hawke over Hayden as Labor leader and she, like Paul Keating whose dynamism she admired and with whom she shared a deep mutual respect, switched camps late.

Ms Ryan nevertheless came to admire Hawke’s leadership, which culminated in the 1983 victory and three subsequent election wins. With Paul Keating’s 1993 election win, this gave Labor five consecutive terms of government in what it retrospect has come to be seen as a golden age in postwar social democratic politics and policy in Australia.

Within three months of the government’s election, Ms Ryan introduced the Sex Discrimination Bill, which drew heavily on a private member’s bill she pursued unsuccessfully from the opposition benches in 1981. The bill was controversial and its passage rocky. Ryan fought the good fight and won.

Ms Ryan’s work as a spearhead for progressive policy took its toll. As the government wrestled with economic policy adjustments necessitated by Australia’s current account crisis in the mid-1980s, she left politics after just five years in cabinet. Her post-parliamentary life saw her focus on superannuation policy and rights for the aged, especially for older women.

Ms Ryan’s contribution to public life was outstanding. She was happy with the reality of her achievements and did not look for credit or applause. She is a signal example to those who despair of getting things done in democratic politics. Ms Ryan showed, even on the most controversial issues, it can and should be done.

Read more: Quotas are not pretty but they work – Liberal women should insist on them

Chris Wallace, Associate Professor, 50/50 By 2030 Foundation, Faculty of Business Government & Law, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Do you regard Susan Ryan as one of the great achievers of recent times?

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Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
COVID severity or death

Much mystery still surrounds COVID-19 and who it hits hardest.

Some say children may be immune or asymptomatic. Some who contract the virus may require intensive care, while others will experience only mild symptoms or none at all.

Mortality rates suggest a much higher death rate among older people, and yet there are instances of people in their 90s and even centenarians fully recovering from the virus.

However, new research has revealed more about who is most likely to suffer the worst symptoms and who could escape unscathed.

And it seems age is not the dominant factor.

But underlying health conditions are, according to a study of more than 1.3 million COVID cases in the US.

The study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, revealed that rates of hospitalisation were six times higher for people with underlying conditions compared to those without.

And the death rate was up to 12 times higher.

The most commonly reported underlying conditions were heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease. However, other risk factors leading to far more severe COVD-19 outcomes included hypertension, smoking, blood type, obesity, genetic factors and, just as you thought you were getting away with it – age.

Even though underlying conditions are the dominant factor when it comes to severe outcomes, many of these conditions do come with age, says the study.

Around eight in 10 deaths occurred in adults aged 65 or older, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is because the likelihood of chronic medical conditions increases significantly with age.

The risk of infection also increases, as immune system efficacy also declines with age, leaving older people more vulnerable to viral infections

While age is still a determining factor when it comes to COVID-19 morbidity, healthy older people are more likely to experience milder symptoms, say the researchers.

The link between chronic disease and the severity of COVID-19 is more about correlation than causation.

The issue of disease variability “is the most critical question about COVID,” Edward Behrens, chief of the rheumatology division at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Washington Post.

“Why do some people get sick? Why do some people have no problem at all?”

The ‘why’ is still unclear, although social and demographic factors, (sex, race, ethnicity, income and access to quality healthcare) will all be determining factors on who suffers the most.

Many researchers are in the process of determining personal risk scores – so that someone who has or is vulnerable to COVID-19, could have a better idea of how to manage their lives in the pandemic.

To figure out this risk score, researchers are weighing up the effect of a range of pre-existing conditions, combined with age and other socio-economic factors.

People with diabetes are high on the risk scale, as high blood sugar levels seem to be linked to more severe COVID-19 infections.

Scientists have found that people with diabetes were nearly 3.7 times more likely to have a critical case of COVID-19 or to die from the disease compared to people without any underlying health conditions.

But it may not be diabetes alone that is directly responsible for increasing COVID severity.

Other health conditions associated with diabetes, such as cardiovascular and kidney conditions, could still be to blame.

Flu and pneumonia are also more common and more serious in older diabetics, and the progression of type 2 diabetes has been linked to compromised immune systems, which would lead to poorer outcomes for those exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

However, not all people with type 2 diabetes are at the same risk, as diabetics who keep their blood sugar levels in a tighter range experienced less severe coronavirus symptoms.

People with cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease and hypertension, also experience worse COVID-19 complications than those with no pre-existing conditions, says the American Heart Association.

A Chinese study of COVID-19 patients found that more than one in five developed heart damage. Some had no pre-existing heart conditions, while others did, leading some scientists to believe COVID-19 might hurt both damaged hearts and healthy ones.

Smokers may also be prone to severe COVID-19 infections, with a heightened risk of developing pneumonia, suffering organ damage and requiring breathing support, says a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In this study, 12.3 per cent of smokers who were admitted to an ICU, were placed on a ventilator or died, as compared with 4.7 per cent of non-smokers.

Several studies suggest a link between obesity and more severe COVID-19 cases. One study found that COVID-19 patients younger than 60 who were obese were twice as likely as non-obese individuals to be hospitalised and were 1.8 times as likely to need critical care.

A Chinese study also found that obese COVID-19 patients were more than twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia compared to those of normal weight.

Even those who are overweight, but not obese, have an 86 per cent higher risk of developing severe pneumonia than people of normal weight, say the study authors.

Scientists also speculate that obesity may increase the risk of severe infection.

Considering that nearly two thirds (67 per cent) of Australian adults were overweight or obese (12.5 million people), this factor has huge implications.

And even if you’re doing everything right, your blood type or genetics may let you down.

Scientists from the Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, found that people with blood types in the A group (A-positive, A-negative and AB-positive, AB-negative) had a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus compared with non-A group types.

The same study found that those with O blood types (O-negative and O-positive) had a lower risk of getting the infection compared with non-O blood types.

However, scientists are still unsure as to why blood type might increase or decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Somescientists saygenetic factors may also make you more susceptible to the disease, but it seems they are still working on that theory, says a Live Science article.

While all these underlying conditions may make you more susceptible to COVID-19, “the difference between catching COVID and dying is so stark the older you get, it’s important to recognise that,” said Carl Heneghan, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University.

“You have to try and stay healthy, get fit,” he said.

“If you’ve got diabetes, you’ve got to lose weight and moderate that. If you do all those things, your risk of dying is small, or very small.”

What are you doing to improve your health? Could COVID-19 be a wake-up call for you?

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Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Lymph node swelling explained

If you’re feeling rundown or sick, you may notice your lymph nodes are swollen. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures that filter lymphatic fluid and help your body to fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are a part of your body’s immune system. There are hundreds of them throughout your body, primarily located in the neck, armpits and groin area.

If you can feel that your lymph nodes are swollen, it is likely that your body is working to fight off illness or infection, though there are a range of reasons they may be enlarged or tender.

Sexually transmitted diseasesA number of STDs can cause your lymph nodes to swell. Swollen lymphs in your neck, groin or head can be an early symptom of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Other STDs like syphilis and genital herpes can also cause the lymph nodes in your groin to swell, while gonorrhoea can cause the swelling of lymphs in your neck and groin. Lymphogranuloma venereum is an STD caused by chlamydia trachomatis, which can cause swollen, painful lymph nodes in the groin.

MedicineSwollen lymph nodes are a known side-effect of phenytoin, a medication used to treat epilepsy.

Pink eyeViral conjunctivitis, a highly contagious infection, can cause your lymph nodes to swell. Pink eye is caused by a virus and may be triggered by the common virus that causes colds, meaning the two sometimes occur in tandem.

CancerLymphoma is the general term for cancer that starts in your lymph nodes. It is the fifth most common cancer in Australia and is the most common type of blood cancer. There are more than 80 different subtypes of lymphoma. In Australia, 6000 people are diagnosed with lymphoma every year, and 1500 people die from it each year. Over the past 20 years, cases of lymphoma have more than doubled. There is no known cause for this dramatic increase in cases.

Upper respiratory infectionSwollen, sensitive or painful lymph nodes in your neck can be a sign that you have an infection in your throat, sinuses or nose.

Dental damageInfections in your teeth, caused by injuries, cavities or dental work, can cause the lymph nodes in the neck and below your jaw line to swell.

TuberculosisScrofula is a type of tuberculosis that can cause the lymph nodes in your neck to become firm and feel rubbery to touch. While this swelling is generally not painful, it may occur alongside fever, chills and other symptoms.

ShinglesHerpes zoster, also known as shingles, is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and can live in your body for years, remerging in your adulthood. The earliest symptom is pain caused by a rash and often experienced alongside a headache and fever. The lymph nodes that help to drain the affected area often become enlarged. 

InfectionsSkin infections on your scalp can also cause the lymph nodes in your neck to swell. Scalp ringworm or impetigo – which usually effects the skin on the face – can break out on your scalp, triggering a reaction in your lymph nodes.


Have you ever noticed your lymph nodes becoming swollen or tender? Is your lymphatic system particularly responsive to illness?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Implications of buying a second house

Beverley wants to buy a cheap house for her son and wants to know if it will affect her pension.


Q. BeverleyI am currently living in my own home. If I were to buy a second home for my son and myself, how will it affect my Age Pension? The second property is valued at only $135,000.

A. You haven’t given me a lot of information, but I will run through some of the scenarios and what they will mean for your Age Pension in this situation.

Firstly, if you are buying the house outright from your current funds, then this second house will be assessed as an asset by Centrelink.

If you are single, you can hold up to $268,000 in assets and still claim the full Age Pension, so your eligibility will depend on the value of your other assets.

If your son pays board in the house, Centrelink does not consider board and lodging from immediate family members as income, therefore, you should be able to receive contributions from your children towards their living expenses without your Age Pension being affected.

If your son is contributing towards the purchase of the house, then only the portion of the house that you pay for and own will be assessed as an asset.

If you are taking out a loan to purchase the property, only the portion of the house that you own will be treated as an asset by Centrelink.

If you are going to live in the newly purchased property with your son, then your current property will become the assessable Centrelink asset.

This is the scenario that could have the biggest effect on your pension. If your current property is worth more than the property you are purchasing, and more than the $268,000 mentioned above, you may no longer receive the full Age Pension.

If the property is valued at more than $583,000 and you are single, then you may no longer receive an Age Pension payment.

Have you purchased property for your adult children? What were the financial implications of your decision? What advice would you give to others in this situation?

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Related articles: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a Centrelink Financial Information Services officer, financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Are you at risk of breaking a bone?

Every 3.2 minutes, someone, somewhere in Australia breaks a bone. The older you are, the worse the ramification can be. But this doesn’t have to be the case. In today’s podcast, Dr Greg Lyubomirsky CEO of Osteoporosis Australia, explains the risk factors associated with bone breakages and how a new website can help you avoid this potentially fatal occurrence.


For more information visit

Sat, 26 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
We need to talk about loneliness

Long before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, loneliness had become an epidemic in this country. The virus just made it worse. One in two people in Australia now say they feel lonely, according to a recent survey by Melbourne’s Swinburne University. Those who said they were lonelier because of COVID-19 also reported more mental health concerns.

What’s going on?The findings are not surprising. Since the arrival of the virus, we have been urged to stay physically distant from one another – the opposite of what comes naturally to us as humans. We know there are health risks associated with loneliness. It can increase your risk of dying prematurely by 30 per cent, making it as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and more dangerous than obesity, according to Brigham Young University in the US.

If there is any silver lining in this era of physical distancing, it is that we really are all in this together. Many of us have been touched to some degree by loneliness during these troubled times and that may make us kinder moving forward.

“It is too early to say whether we are going to be more empathetic in the way we think and act in the future,” says Dr Michelle Lim, a clinical psychologist and one of the authors of the Swinburne survey.

“But the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly highlighted social fractures in our community and our social networks.

Jean Hailes psychologist Gillian Needleman says many people are now discovering that our modern ways of communication – emails, texts and other online media – have come at a cost. The pandemic has laid that bare because it has made us aware of missing the sound of the human voice and the human touch.

Many of us, she says, are lonely for our structures and routines. We are isolated from our work colleagues, from our gym buddies, and from the activities that made up our daily lives. However, the pandemic has also given us time to sit and think, to explore the possibility of finding something meaningful in our lives.

Change the mindsetWhile Ms Needleman concedes there is no quick-fix solution to loneliness, there are things we can do to improve our lives. Consider the power of mindfulness. “Try to optimise the moments of possibilities, try to enrich the moments you have,” she suggests. “I don’t have exact answers, but it’s important to think about how you stay engaged with hope, and to remember that this will not last forever.”

Invest in your healthIt will not cure loneliness but, says Ms Needleman, physical activity will make you feel better about yourself. Walk, run, eat well, limit your consumption of alcohol, and get a good night’s sleep. “Improve the quality of your life incrementally,” she says.

Engage with the people in your life in a meaningful way. Have the courage to reveal your vulnerability. She says it’s totally okay to be not okay.

Dr Lim says that to feel lonely is to be human. “When we feel lonely, it is a signal for us to reconnect, to do something different to meet our ever-changing social needs.”

She says it’s important to be aware of how you feel about your relationships. If you feel lonely, reassess your current social connections and networks first. Determine if you need to modify these relationships to better meet your social needs. It might be that you need to consider putting in greater effort. Decide if you would like to build new networks and, if so, what would they look like. She says it’s critical to remember that there is no one size fits all.

The upsideTaking active steps to connect with people is the number one tool in dealing with loneliness, says Nick Tebbey, national executive officer for Relationships Australia. He has been surprised by the creativity of many people in Australia forced by the virus into physically distancing from one another. “It has been so varied and adaptive,” he says.

Hand-written letters, for example, are popular again. Neighbour Day, usually marked in March to celebrate community, has been extended to every day as a way of encouraging people to regularly check in on their community. It helps to build a sense of belonging.

“We know that loneliness has always been there, but now people are beginning to talk about it,” he says. “We need a national conversation about it. We need to talk about how we can support everyone and help them to make connections.”

This article first appeared on Find more information about mental health and wellbeing here.

Have you been able to reach out to people you know were probably lonely? Has a neighbour done something kind for you?

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Sat, 26 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Where men run for cover

Peter Leith is 91 and has seen a lot of the world and a myriad changes – many good, some bad. And then there are some things that never change no matter how much we would like them to.


Before DDT and pyrethrum were invented, the mozzies around Lake Alexandrina, Meningie the Coorong and all the way south to Kingston, were something savage.

As plentiful as the pelicans, and not much smaller, they were frightening in both their size and voraciousness. 

The owners of cats and small dogs were warned to keep their pets in cages overnight or the mozzies would carry them away and leave their blood-drained bodies to be found outside in the morning.

Even the rabbits, if they came out to feed at night, never strayed far from their burrows and always had an air-raid warden ‘keeping nit’ for an air-borne mozzie attack.

My friends, Bert and Clarrie, worked for years repairing the ever-recurring potholes in the road between Meningie and Kingston. They lived together for many years in a shack at Pelican Point.

One night, Clarrie woke up to hear Bert shouting: “Get orf me yer mug! Git orf me! Git orf!!”

“What's up Bert?” asks Clarrie.

“There's this bloody great mozzie sittin on me chest,” gasps Bert.

“Aw stone the crows!” says Clarrie. “Yer wake me up for that? Give him a thump and kill the bugger!”

“Can't,” Says Bert. “He's got me arms pinned!”

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.


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Sat, 26 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
The long-distance grandparent

Every morning since COVID disrupted our lives, I’ve woken to images of my son and his young family managing their splendidly unrestricted existence in northern NSW. There are five of them and they’re in this together: mother, father, toddler, newborn and Norman. (Norman is a greyhound but try convincing him.)

The sun rises early in their part of the world and they are usually up to greet it. The mornings find them on a quiet stretch of beach near their home, making friends with crabs and discovering bear caves. I watch video of the almost-two-year-old running, falling, picking herself up and running some more towards her father to show him the treasure she clutches in her pudgy little hand. I laugh out loud at images of the two of them doing whizzes that leave them both staggering around like a couple of sailors on shore leave.

There is a still photo of her standing behind Norman and holding his lead. Their heads are on a level, but he is 50kg of couch potato that can turn into coiled spring at the sight of anything white and fluffy. I have seen footage of her waving away all attempts on the part of anyone else to ‘walk’ Norman. No matter how often she drops the lead – diverted by a shiny stone or clump of sea foam – he stands just like he does in the photo, waiting for her to pick it up again.

Later in the morning, images of her craft activities start to flood in. She is busy at her new craft table, squishing paint out of tubes and rearranging shells in her ‘fish pond’. Every so often she downs tools to show her baby brother some love. This is often a vigorous demonstration that involves the circling of at least one chubby arm around his neck. He accepts it with grace and equanimity – he even seems to like it.

He is an unknown quantity, this new addition to the family. When I first met him, he was a tiny wizened old man, frowny and unimpressed with life outside the womb. He screwed his eyes closed and didn’t seem to like what he was seeing behind his eyelids. Or maybe he just didn’t like his new environment with its harsh lights and loud noises.

When I last inhaled his scent, he was six weeks old – a wide-eyed cherub wearing the trace of a smile, even in his sleep. That week of his visit, we ‘distant’ relatives jostled for position inches from his face, competing for his first full-on beam. Weeks later, on my solitary two-metre distant obstacle walk around the park, my grandson and I FaceTime. He smiles right at me – not a wind-induced grimace but a deliberate ‘I like what I see’ smile – and somehow I manage to capture the moment on a screenshot. Grandmother and grandchild – crinkly eyed – pleased as can possibly be with each other.

My son’s family lives in a world of ocean sunrises and shorelines that go on forever. COVID changes have been good to them. Norman especially is loving the breakfast barbecues, strolls by the river and post-stroll takeaway puppycinos, judging by the images flooding in daily.

Back in chilly Melbourne, the children’s aunt, uncle and grandmother watch on with amusement and a little envy of their sun-kissed lifestyle. Seeing photo evidence of their day-to-day life is the highlight of our day. We are privy to so much more detail than we would be if they lived in the next suburb. From 1600km away, we bear daily witness to the small steps and major milestones of my son’s offspring, and to the transformation of my firstborn from fun-loving young man to a fun and loving father.

Watching from afar the accelerated development of these two small humans creates the occasional twinge of this once-reluctant grandmother’s grandmotherly FOMO – a fear that my absence from their lives at such a formative time will render me inessential. And then I remember Norman – huge, barrel-chested and utterly still – waiting for my granddaughter to remember his existence. 

And inevitably she does. Once the crabs have all scuttled into their holes and the bears have retreated to their caves, she will pick up his lead and together they will continue on their way. The ties that bind them are naked to the human eye, but the connection is real.

In a week, my granddaughter will turn two and – thanks to the miracle of technology – I will be able to share in the celebrations. And when we are able to be reunited, it will be my turn to wait patiently until she picks up the lead. As I know she will.

Elizabeth Quinn is a writer, Francophile, mother of three adults, writer and creator of This is an edited version of a story that first appeared The Big Issue.

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Sat, 26 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Crop rotation to boost veg growth

Gardening has a reputation for being difficult and finicky. Of course, there's plenty to think about and explore but the bottom line is that plants really want to grow given half the chance.

Drawing up a crop rotation system as part of your growing season's planning is a tried-and-tested way of giving your crops a helping hand toward a rewarding harvest.

Now is a great time for beginner gardeners to get to grips with plant families and crop rotation, for the best chance of success with veg grown as annuals – the ones you will sow and harvest within one year.

There are four major groups of vegetables.1. Brassicas: members of the cabbage family including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, oriental greens, radish, swede and turnip.

2. Legumes: members of the pea family including peas, broad beans (although French and runner beans can be grown wherever convenient) and clover, which is used as green manure. Legumes can fix nitrogen from the air in root nodules and, if left to decompose in the soil, will be beneficial to later crops.

3. Potato family: potatoes and tomatoes (peppers and aubergines can be grown anywhere in the rotation).

4. Roots: beetroot, carrot, celery, celeriac, parsley, parsnip, Florence fennel and all other root crops except swedes and turnips.

How crop rotation worksTraditionally, you create four beds within your growing space, one for each of these groups of vegetables, and rotate the groups between beds each year, moving them in the same order and direction, so you avoid planting the same crop in the same place more than one year in four, to help prevent root diseases.

This also helps make the most of their soil requirements, as brassicas and roots benefit from the soil being given a top-dressing of lime, while potatoes and legumes prefer soil that has been manured. Alternate treatments help keep the soil balanced, while soil structure benefits from having a deep-rooted crop one year and a shallow-rooted one another.

The benefits of crop rotationAs already mentioned, grouping plants together by their nutritional needs is an effective way of keeping your soil fertile and healthy without resorting to chemical fertilisers. However, crop rotation offers other benefits, too.

Crops in the same group tend to have similar sowing and harvesting times, making space management easier. Different crop groups have different depths of root systems. Rotation spreads the nutritional load over different layers of the soil from year to year, giving each one more time to recover. Similar crops will benefit from a common watering, mulching, and feeding regimen. Most plants can be afflicted by a disease of some type. Plants in the same group tend to be at risk from the same diseases, and it's easier to protect them when they're planted together. Added to that, any infected debris left behind after an outbreak is far less likely to pass the disease on to the next crop when a different group is rotated into that space. Rotating crops can also help prevent crop-specific pests from becoming established in your garden.

What about modern crops?The old system doesn’t take into account modern crops such as sweetcorn and courgettes, but many people don’t want to devote a quarter of their plot to maincrop potatoes. If that’s the case, just divide the plot into three and grow courgettes with peas and beans.

Salads and other quick crops can be grown in the gaps between the rows of slower-growing, bigger crops. Onions, pumpkins, salad leaves and stem and fruiting vegetables can slot in where there is space, although onions are often grown with legumes.

Who should use crop rotation?Crop rotation can benefit any grower, but it's especially useful for those who want to follow a more natural cycle and minimise the use of chemicals and other intensive methods.

It's also good for smaller scale gardeners who want to grow a wide variety of crops in a smaller space. Getting the most out of a small area relies on careful soil care, and crop rotation provides an excellent foundation.

Of course, crop rotation isn't for everyone. It takes more planning and knowledge than dousing your soil with fertilisers and pesticides each year to try and maintain growing success. However, if you prefer to use sustainable and natural methods whenever possible, then crop rotation is an essential and effective technique to use.

And if you forget …So, in all the excitement of your new vegies, you may forget what you grew on a piece of ground the previous year. Don’t worry, just remember these important points:

Don’t grow potatoes in the same spot two years running, because they are hungry feeders and will leave the soil depleted of nutrients.

Add lime to the soil in autumn after growing potatoes and grow peas or beans on that piece of ground. Peas and beans are great nitrogen-fixers, producing plenty of nutrients for any crop that follows them, including brassicas.

With root crops, don’t dig in manure before planting as they won’t like it. Instead, apply manure once you have harvested the root crops in autumn, so the soil will be replenished in anticipation of potato planting.

What about perennial veg?Perennial veg, including rhubarb, artichokes and perpetual spinach, should go into separate beds where they can be left undisturbed. Asparagus needs its own bed and will take a couple of years before you can harvest it.

What are you growing this year? Do you have a crop rotation system in place?

– With PA

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Sat, 26 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Talk hearing loss with family

On average, a person will wait seven years before getting help for hearing loss. It is a sensitive subject, and you may find yourself needing to initiate an unpleasant conversation with a loved one if they are waiting too long.

Every type of hearing loss can take a toll on personal relationships, no matter how mild.

Effects of hearing loss

Causing the person to withdraw from social situations. They find it difficult to communicate and may feel embarrassed asking people to repeat themselves often. Leaving hearing loss untreated could lead to health conditions like depression and anxiety and could allow the hearing loss to become worse. Fewer personal and professional opportunities as it is hard for the person to communicate clearly and efficiently. Hearing plays a major role in our balance function. People with hearing loss can find themselves becoming unsteady on their feet and having more falls than those without.


It’s possible for the hearing loss to worsen over time if left untreated, as the brain becomes accustomed to receiving sounds at this diminished volume, and ‘forgets’ what the regular volume input should be. People who wait too long may find it difficult to understand speech and will then have to readjust when hearing aids are fitted.

How to talk about hearing lossDo your research. If you can answer the questions or objections the person has, they may be more willing to take the next step.

Broach the subject at an appropriate time. Don’t try to bring up the conversation when you are both stressed or pushed for time, or when there are lots of other people nearby.

Be empathetic. Hearing loss can cause a lot of other emotions that the person may have been suppressing.

Talk about the effects on you and the family. Try to explain why you want them to be able to hear again. Let them know their grandchildren miss talking on the phone to them, or that you have noticed they have withdrawn from social interactions and you want them to thoroughly enjoy life again.

Offer your help. Appointments with medical professionals can be daunting and overwhelming, so offer to research, book appointments and even attend alongside them. There can be lots of information given at these appointments, so a second pair of ears can help take it all in.

Talk about the results of treatment. Don’t just focus on how frustrating it is for everyone now, try explaining the benefits of seeking treatment and the joy of being able to hear and be fully immersed in the world again.

Don’t be discouraged. If the conversation is first met with hostility or brushed aside, remember that the person is probably experiencing a lot of other emotions and proceed slowly. At least you will have planted the seed to try again later.

Some objections you may faceDenialSometimes, the person won't have realised the hearing loss is noticeable to others. Hearing loss usually has a gradual onset, and the brain can adapt to each slight reduction in hearing degree. This causes the sufferer to become habituated to their reduced hearing ability, so they don’t know that they have an issue to be concerned with.

If your loved one has a powerful, emotional denial when the subject is raised, they may suspect they have a hearing loss but do not want to admit to it.

If family and friends are accommodating of the hearing loss, they may not realise it is a problem. It may be useful to explain how hearing loss is affecting others. Tell them it would be nice not to have to repeat yourself or have to worry when they don’t answer the phone because they can’t hear it ringing.

Your loved one may be aware of the hearing loss but doesn’t think anything can help. They may just think that it's a part of getting older and something to live with.

CostCost is a genuine issue for many people who do not have hearing aids. Seniors on limited, fixed incomes, people in low paying jobs, and children from economically low-income families are just a few examples.

You can explain that there is an extensive range of hearing aids on the market today, with a wide variety of price points. They can range from a couple of hundred dollars for basic products to thousands of dollars for the more complex and less obtrusive aids.

There are also government programs to heavily subsidise hearing devices for pensioners and other at-risk groups. See the Office of Hearing Services website for more details. If you have private health insurance, you may be entitled to a rebate. 

Perception in societyMany people are worried about how wearing a hearing aid will make them look. Men tend to see it as a sign of weakness and women tend to see it as ‘showing their age’.

Previously bulky and unsightly, hearing aids have come a long way in the past few years. Modern devices are significantly smaller and more effective than their older counterparts, and manufacturers have moved away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

You can also try to tactfully discuss how they appear to others when they frequently fail to hear or understand what is being said. A hearing loss is usually far more noticeable than a hearing aid.

While it is true that hearing aids cannot perfect your hearing or return it entirely to the state it once was, they can vastly improve quality of life for people with mild, moderate or severe hearing loss. Each year more than 100,000 Australians choose to be fitted with hearing aids, and the satisfaction rate among hearing aid users is reported at more than 70 per cent.

How would you broach the subject? Have you ever had to initiate a conversation about hearing loss with a loved one? Do you have any other tips to add?

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Sat, 26 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Top Lake Mac road trip highlights

Just a 90-minute journey from Sydney, Lake Macquarie is the ideal destination for a self-driving day trip or mini-break. With the great outdoors being top of the agenda for many visitors, Visit Lake Macquarie has crafted a top highlights driving itinerary for cruising over 60 kilometres of easy road. Travellers can take in breathtaking views during a 90-minute circumnavigation of the lake – the largest coastal saltwater lake in Australia – or stop and explore the very best this regional gem has to offer.

Stop 1: Catherine Hill BayDrive time from Sydney – 1.5 hoursA state heritage-listed historic mining village, Catherine Hill Bay features a stunning patrolled beach, twice named among 'Australia's 101 Best Beaches'. Popular for swimming, surfing and fishing, the beach is home to a former coal-loading jetty – a favourite subject of local photographers. If you’re looking for a spot to sit back and unwind, a small but scenic picnic area overlooks the beach and boasts tables, barbecues, toilets and off-street parking – perfect for a sausage sandwich!

Stop 2: Caves BeachDrive time from Catherine Hill Bay – 15 minutes travelling 11kmLake Macquarie’s iconic Caves Beach is a perennial visitor favourite. Its extensive network of sea caves and rock pools are ideal for low-tide exploration and are guaranteed to keep the whole family entertained. Also home to the Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club – featuring facilities including a kiosk, bathrooms, barbecues and picnic tables – Caves Beach is a must-visit attraction. Pack your sunnies, hat and sunscreen, get your swimmers on, and enjoy a coastal visit to remember.

Stop 3: Pelican Reserve ForeshoreDrive time from Caves Beach – 10 minutes travelling 6kmPelican Reserve Foreshore is one of the region’s most loved picnic areas, so pull out your picnic rug and claim a spot on the shaded grassy expanses. This little gem also offers a small sandy beach area where the water runs crystal clear and bright blue – perfect for a dip on a warm spring day. The reserve is complete with barbecues, covered picnic tables, a boat ramp, public toilets, and a fenced playground to keep the kids happy, too!

Stop 4: Redhead BeachDrive time from Pelican Reserve Foreshore – 17 minutes travelling 12kmSituated in an idyllic location at the northern end of a stunning nine-mile coastal stretch, Redhead Beach backs onto magnificent red cliffs and is renowned for its iconic shark tower. Take a dip, try your hand at fishing or join the local surfers, Redhead Beach’s Cargo Espresso Bar is also well worth visiting for an early morning coffee, homemade botanical soda or delicious bite to eat.

Stop 5: Redhead Bluff LookoutDrive time from Redhead Beach – 2 minutes travelling 1kmHead up onto the headland to find one of Lake Macquarie’s most breathtaking views. Redhead Bluff Lookout is the perfect spot to enjoy panoramic ocean vistas while taking a moment to block out all distractions. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of passing whales during migration season!

Stop 6: Belmont ForeshoreDrive time from Redhead Bluff Lookout – 13 minutes travelling 9kmWhether you are travelling with kids or road tripping with friends, Belmont Foreshore is a must. The recently renovated Belmont Baths features a jetty (perfect for practising big splash bombs), large netted swimming area, brand-new amenities block, change rooms and foreshore landscaping. If all that swimming gets your tummy rumbling, just a short walk down the road you’ll find Common Circus, known for its gorgeous homewares and gifts as well as fresh, delicious cuisine.

Stop 7: Red Bluff BoardwalkDrive time from Belmont Foreshore – 10 minutes travelling 7kmLake Macquarie offers walking trails galore, with the Red Bluff Boardwalk being a highlight not to miss. This elevated boardwalk stretches 380m with viewing decks over the glistening water at Eleebana. The boardwalk is part of a 9km route, which travels around the lake from Belmont to Booragul. Along the way you can enjoy picnicking, bike riding, or a visit to one of the popular Warners Bay cafes, all while soaking in the beautiful lake scenery.

Stop 8: Warners Bay ForeshoreDrive time from Red Bluff Boardwalk – 2 minutes travelling 2kmYou can’t say you have been to Lake Macquarie without visiting Warners Bay. This lively lakeside town has everything from boutique shops to quirky eateries and a fabulous foreshore, perfect for post-meal strolls. With cafes aplenty, this is a foodie’s haven. If picnics are more your style, head over the road to the lake and pick a nice spot to enjoy the afternoon.

Stop 9: Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie (MAC)Drive time from Warners Bay Foreshore – 9 minutes travelling 7kmOverlooking the shores of Lake Macquarie, the Museum of Art and Culture (MAC), is the region’s premier art destination. This award-winning contemporary arts space hosts a comprehensive collection featuring distinguished pieces. Alongside a permanent collection are regularly changing exhibitions as well as a diverse visitor program including workshops, installations, performances, and other activities.

Stop 10: TorontoDrive time from MAC – 13 minutes travelling 6kmLakeside relaxation and waterfront dining are a few of the pleasures you can expect to enjoy when visiting Toronto Foreshore. The vibrant sailing scene is clearly evident with a yacht club and marina loved by locals. Don’t forget to stop by one of the most talked about locations to get a bite in Lake Mac, Greg and Audreys. The delicious American-style food, including their raved-about range of ice creams all made in-house (sundaes served with a mini umbrella!) will have you drooling.

Stop 11: Wangi Wangi VillageDrive time from Toronto – 10 minutes travelling 12kmWangi Wangi is a well-known holiday spot, popular with families and water lovers. Beautiful surrounds, peaceful lake views, good company and friendly wildlife make it the perfect place to relax and unwind. Wangi Point Holiday Park is nestled on the shores of the lake, offering an ideal location for boating and fishing.

With a long weekend on the horizon, school holidays and many sunny weekends ahead, there’s never been a better time to pack up the car and head on a road trip around lovely Lake Macquarie.

Plan your Lake Mac visit at

What’s your favourite part of Lake Macquarie?

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Fri, 25 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST
Six ways to bag a travel freebie

When Australia’s international borders eventually reopen, will travel be cheaper than we are used to, or more expensive?

There are differing opinions on this, with some believing travellers will need to be coaxed into travelling again, while others believe new protocols will make the experience much more expensive.

Regardless of which way it lands, there are things you can get for free when you are ready to start travelling again, if you have the right cards in your wallet or purse.

Here are just some of the ways you can bag travel freebies.

Complimentary travel insuranceSome credit card providers offer insurance for overseas travel. This is sometimes advertised as 'complimentary' insurance. Often it is included in the credit card's fees (like the application fee or annual fee) or its interest rate.

Usually, you need to pay for a certain amount of travel costs with your credit card to be covered. For example, pay for your return flight or your accommodation. Each policy is different, so make sure you check with your provider.

Free flightsThere are many things you can spend your frequent flyer points on these days, but let’s not forget the most important one – flying! Depending on what card you have, and who you fly with, it can sometimes be difficult to find an available award flight that suits your requirements.

One of the most important things to remember if you want to take full advantage of your frequent flyer points is to book your trip well in advance to make sure there are plenty of free flights available.

Free accommodationIf you can’t find a suitable flight to use your frequent flyer points on, then you may have better luck trying to use them to secure free accommodation. It isn’t always the best value way to spend your frequent flyer points, but it is important to remember that you can use your points to save in ways other than flying.

Free upgradesThis is often the best value way to use your frequent flyers points. Paying for an economy seat and then using your points on a flight upgrade is often the best way to go.

Qantas actually has an upgrade calculator to help you work out how many points you’ll need for an upgrade.

Qantas also has a program called Bid Now Upgrades that allows you to use a mixture of cash and points to ‘bid’ on an upgrade. This may be a way you can get your upgrade without ‘spending’ all your points. Sometimes you can pick up an international upgrade for as little as 5000 points.

Airport lounge passesAirport lounges are near the top of people’s lists when it comes to satisfying air travel.

One of the many perks offered by certain credit cards is complimentary access to some of these airport lounges. If your card holds this feature and you’ve got a trip coming up, it can pay to know how it works and what the limitations are.

Free concierge serviceSome premium credit cards also come with access to a 24/7 worldwide concierge. This service gives cardholders insider knowledge in every city they visit – no more fumbling through a foreign language book to order seats at a show or struggling with directions from a guy on the street. The service can help you book flights, hotels, concerts, restaurants and events. Most platinum credits cards offer a concierge service of some kind.

What travel freebies do you have with the cards in your wallet or purse? Which ones do you use most often?

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Fri, 25 Sep 2020 00:00:00 AEST