Marooned in June
The core Shelter-in-Place component of the State of California’s coronavirus containment strategy requires citizens to stay at home, except for limited categories of permitted activities. Our retirement community’s management has further narrowed those exceptions to essential (not routine) medical appointments. CCRC residents going off-campus for such appointments must notify the administration in advance and then self-isolate for two weeks of apartment quarantine on their return. The rationale for this stringent lockdown is to prevent exiting residents from bringing the virus back into our vulnerable elder village; 14 days is the virus’s average incubation period.

At the end of May, California is cautiously reopening. Governor Newsom and county authorities are gingerly initiating a phased relaxation of the shelter-in-place restrictions they’d imposed in mid-March to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a still-sequestered resident of a California retirement community, I’m understandably focused on how this saga is going to play out for me, my wife and my peers.

Here are two forward-looking questions much on my mind:

1) How are we seniors likely to respond if, as seems plausible, we’re kept in lockdown for a continuing indefinite period?

2) And once we do emerge, how are we likely to have changed? 

To enrich my own observations, I’ve reached out to a circle of senior friends residing around San Francisco Bay. I find their contributions thoughtful and thought-provoking.

As 2020’s winter surrenders to spring, Covid-19 is dominating our lives. Here in our San Francisco Bay Area Retirement Community, April has witnessed sweeping adjustments.

I’d like to use this blog post to record and report how this emerging “new normal” feels on the ground. When we moved here, Nancy and I had no inkling we’d signed up for a sequestration seminar. But it’s offering a full syllabus of Agile Aging challenges and opportunities.

The coronavirus crisis is escalating so rapidly that a month feels like forever. The pandemic’s global and national dimensions are expanding exponentially, spinning out of control.

Here’s a ground-level journal of how the surging storm began to penetrate the perimeter of our elder village.

            March started routinely enough in our CCRC. Our family calendar was crowded with on-campus social engagements and activities. Nancy and I were re-booked for a half-dozen lunches and dinners with fellow residents. (We’d had to defer these welcoming invitations while Nancy underwent marathon medical tests probing her excessive weight-loss. Thankfully, all test results were negative.)    

            Two live musical performances were scheduled during the first half of the month – a chamber recital and a national boys’ chorus. Weekly movie screenings were also on tap.

Peer Profiles can motivate and mobilize us by sharing innovative solutions to common challenges of aging. Blog followers during the first year of publication have consistently commented that they find stories more instructive than lectures, personal vignettes more relatable than aggregated statistics.

Here’s the story of one senior couple who crafted a distinctive approach for transitioning to a retirement community.

My December 15 blog post, “Moving On: Transitioning to a CCRC,” introduced Nancy’s and my search for a senior residential community. At year’s end, on an accelerated timetable, we made our move. I’d like to use this paired January post to pick up the narrative thread, sharing highlights of our relocation experience plus some first impressions of our new home and lifestyle. Here’s a journal of transitional steps and stages.

Central Coast Goodbyes

       We were deeply touched by the kindness of Monterey Peninsula friends, hosting lunches and dinners to say au revoir. We all talked candidly at these gatherings about our respective senior residential plans. What I expected less but appreciated more was that somehow our pending departure seemed to spark opportunities for unprecedented intimacy and bonding. It was as if we were all tacitly aware that we might never again be together on the same neighborly basis, so these last shared moments ought not to be squandered on movie reviews or casual chitchat. Instead we quietly took advantage of these final moments to confirm our feelings for each other and what we care about.

Perhaps because a new year is just beginning, I’m coming across a flurry of stimulating new articles on agile aging. Here’s a sampling for your possible interest and follow-through.

Jacob Epstein reviewed “Elderhood” by Louise Aronson in the Wall Street Journal:

….This is a serious, useful and important book. According to a study cited by Dr. Aronson, life, so to say, begins at 60. “Data from the United States and Western Europe confirm that most people are around sixty before they achieve levels of well-being comparable to those of twenty-year-olds, and rates climb thereafter.” Arriving at 60 and beyond presumably brings freedom from worry, lessened depression and anger, a firmer sense of one’s self and what one values, greater contentment and happiness….

Virtually all of our senior friends are wrestling with the linked challenges of long-term healthcare and housing. How can we best plan for continuing affordable healthcare when American medical costs are spiraling out of control? And what housing solutions will best fit our evolving needs during our next life-chapter? Nancy and I devoted the past 18 months to identifying and evaluating available choices. We’ve now made our decision.

Blog followers have asked me to share highlights of our learning curve. This post interweaves two strands: journal notes of our transition journey; and a profile of the senior-residence type we selected – a Continuing Care Residential Community (CCRC)

Every senior individual or couple has their own set of influences framing their healthcare and housing choices: needs, values, resources, constraints and obligations. Our experience may give you food for thought.

We’re delighted to be launched on this Agile Aging adventure. How will it play out? Where will it lead us? Who will we become?

There seems to be a strong consensus among experts on aging that pursuing a new creative passion or project is one of the best ways for a senior to sustain alertness, curiosity and productivity. And this fresh start can be most stimulating when it’s distinctively different from a retiree’s professional career. I’m hoping that blog followers will indulge me in profiling my spouse as an example. I believe Nancy’s senior pivot is informative and instructive.

Nancy Swing grew up in West Virginia and pursued a successful career as an international development consultant, working in Africa, Asia and Europe. After retiring in California, she turned serious attention to writing and publishing mysteries. THE SILVER FOXES, the final volume in her Lewiston, West Virginia trilogy, has just been published. Here are highlights from our breakfast interview at Pacific Grove’s Point Pinos Grill.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Nancy and I enjoy taking overland excursions to rediscover our native country, after decades spent living and working abroad. Here are some journal notes from one recent autumn expedition.

Getting to Our Destination

We prefer staying off Interstates, if side roads can take us in our intended direction. On this trip we loved the routes above Sacramento, rice fields and silos, then orchards along Highway 70, the Feather River Scenic Highway. Oroville and its horizon-dominating dam were a sobering reminder of the 2017 flood. Highway 32 offered an inviting serpentine into the mountains. Zigzagging along Deer Creek, it was carved out by the Civilian Conservation Corps at the height of the Great Depression in 1934.