I find myself increasingly preoccupied by compounding transitions. Closest to home, it seems as if all the residents in our retirement community are dealing with ailments, injuries or loved-ones’ demise.  TV news bombards us with images of “once-in-a-century” extreme-weather events that are becoming continuous. The COVID virus is stubbornly resurging. Ukraine-war fortunes tilt back-and-forth. Putin threatens NATO, Xi, Pacific harmony, and Trump, American democracy. Inflation drops while gasoline prices bounce. Weekly AI innovations offer promise and peril. Nothing stands still.

Some of these changes seem destructive and disheartening. Others, encouragingly transformative. Here are three examples that captured my attention as Summer yields to Fall.

I’m always interested in different takes on aging. How do diverse thinkers, writers, friends and public figures come to terms with growing old?

In this and other contexts, politicians attract special scrutiny. They’re on display, in the public limelight. How do they accept, downplay or cover up their signature signs of aging? A slower gait or precarious balance? A loss for words or embarrassing gaffe? How should we value their expertise and experience as counterweights to evident physical and mental slippage?

This month a curious pair of case studies captured my attention: Marcus Tullius Cicero and Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. Two powerfully influential politicians millennia apart. What can they tell us about effective aging in the public domain?

Growing old can be a twisting journey, like driving on an unfamiliar country road. You almost never know what lies ahead or when you’ll come upon it. Blind curves can lead to disruptive challenges or inviting opportunities. Agile Aging aims to address the former and embrace the latter. June surprised me with a linked pair of examples. The challenge was an unsettling ailment; the opportunity, restorative relief. Here are my journal notes.

Now that I’ve crossed the threshold into my eighties, I find myself increasingly pondering my future. What do I want to focus on and what let go? How long might I have left and how do I want to live it?

Here are three independent journal entries that approach these Agile Aging choices from different perspectives.

As my 80th birthday approached on April 15, friends asked if I was apprehensive about “switching sevens to eights.” [Not at all. I’m already completing my eighth decade, so I won’t miss the sevens.] As soon as the birthday passed, the lead question became “Did I feel any different?” [Not much. Not yet.]

Still, for me this transition was not a non-event.  I do feel I’ve crossed a threshold from retirement to old age. This perceived passage is stimulating reflections – on my past, present and future.

In addition to sharing with you some personal impressions, I’d like also to profile a celebration of other octogenarians living in San Francisco just to the north. 

This end-of-March post comes to you a few days late. Nancy and I have just returned from a road trip to Cloverdale, California.

Today, Cloverdale is a quiet community of 9,000 residents, 80 miles due north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This placid present contrasts with a dynamic past — booming, multicultural, even exotic.

Here are some journal jottings from our visit.

All through February, I kept encountering descriptions and discussions of communities. Ancient and modern, remote and close at hand. I’d like to share some highlights of what I’ve been learning. If you share my interest in this subject, please send your feedback: rbs@agileaging.net

One continuing objective of this Agile Aging blog is to promote communication among fellow elders on subjects of shared interest. A welcome opportunity arose on January 20 when my Yale classmates kindly invited me to give a Zoom presentation on writing my memoir and blog. Nearly 50 old friends tuned in from Maine to California, with outliers in London and Auckland. In today’s post, I thought I’d try to recapture and report for you some of the highlights of our lively discussion. 

Simultaneously but independently, I’ve been experiencing frequent hallucinations that appear to be sparked by my new heart-repair medications. Having given a pass to recreational drugs in our youth, I’m an uninitiated novice when it comes to altered states! I’ve been intrigued but also a tad disconcerted by this steady stream of intrusive images, which is still in full flow. My journal notes are set out below. I wonder if blog readers have had similar medical reactions and might offer feedback. Let’s start a conversation and learn from each other. 

My November 31 blog post reported on my recent heart failure and hospitalization. At the end of the post, I invited readers to contribute their comparable experiences and insights. The responses were the most numerous to any post in the past four years: three dozen written replies from subscribers, plus two dozen spoken comments conveyed by retirement-community neighbors. 

Since an anchoring purpose of the blog has always been to stimulate elder conversations about issues of common interest and concern, I’d like to share with you the main dimensions of this feedback. To let respondents speak for themselves, I’ll quote key excerpts from their messages. To respect their privacy, I’ll keep those comments anonymous. As I move through this synthesis, I’ll insert some attempted clarifications of my own perspective and takeaways. 

Since its launch four years ago, this blog has retained an anchoring principle: to an encouraging degree, we elders can choose how we age. True enough, our physiological changes are determined primarily by our genes and environments. But how we progress through life’s final stage is also markedly influenced by the attitudes we adopt and behaviors we practice.

Last month I had occasion to apply this principle in a medical setting. A malfunctioning heart landed me in Stanford University Hospital. There, I’m convinced that an Agile Aging perspective contributed to my healing progress and positive emergence.

A hospital is hardly a welcome elder destination. But now that many of us are living into our 80s, we’re likely to be hospitalized one or more times. I’d like to share with you what I learned and reaffirmed about making the best of this life-interrupting challenge.