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.

Blog subscribers have been recommending stimulating articles and essays linking elders’ health to our focus and attitudes. Here are excerpts to give you a taste, plus links to let you read the full sources if you’re intrigued.

David M. spotted and shared this BBC piece by 76-year-old Sir Michael Morpurgo, former Children’s Laureate:

Strange thing, getting old – because I never thought it would happen to me. Well, it has, and quite suddenly too. Life these days is punctuated with little reminders. A certain reluctance, that I never had when I was young, when it comes to looking in the mirror. Full body or face. Neither merits a second glance. Mirrors are in fact a perfect nuisance. In [elevators] with mirrors all round, sometimes you catch a glimpse of the back of a head that always lacks more hair than last time you looked, less than you had supposed or hoped.

A Chocolate Soufflé

On August 5, I had dinner at North Hollywood’s Garden Bistro with my high school classmate Bill Dahlman and his wife Kathryne. Our evening got off to an awkward start. Kathryne and I were meeting for the first time, but Bill and I showed up 20 minutes late. Soon, however, initial discomfort gave way to cordial sharing. Kathryne and I traded memories of Arusha, Tanzania, where she’d passed through en route to National Park safaris and I’d worked as a young lawyer for the East African Community. Meanwhile, Bill and I were still bubbling over the detour that had made us late, circling the choice new property just acquired by our high school for expanded athletic facilities.

As our dinner moved along, I could feel us drawing together. A special dessert marked the special occasion, low-key, with no candles or choruses. It had been exactly a year since the blow that turned my friends’ comfortable lives upside down. This was Bill’s first restaurant meal in all those months. The soufflé didn’t stand a chance. We devoured every bite.

Probably no subject commands as much senior attention as aches and pains. Ailments and appointments dominate our conversations and our calendars. One friend says that his circle is so exasperated by this preoccupation that they’ve reserved the first 10 minutes of every gathering for medical show-and-tell. After that flurry, the topic is off-the-table. They’ve labeled these roundtable riffs “organ recitals.”

Our blog will return to health issues more than once as we pursue Agile Aging together. Two initial posts in this domain are devoted to contrasting but hopefully complementary contributions: an expert’s refreshingly candid advice on how we seniors can maintain our mental health (September 30); and a profile of a fellow retiree courageously confronting reduced mobility after a debilitating stroke (October 15.)

One guiding principle of this blog is that Agile Aging is neither automatic nor accidental. It requires awareness and creative imagination, knowhow and sustained commitment. Our final phase of life can be joyful, full of learning, growing and sharing. But dividends demand investments.

One reason Peer Profiles are so inspirational is that they introduce fellow seniors who have figured out how to do things the rest of us aspire to but haven’t yet made happen. Shirley Buccieri has developed innovative solutions to not one but two common senior travel challenges:

  • What if you like to travel but don’t have anyone to travel with? Maybe you live alone or your partner isn’t interested or available.
  • What if you’d like to linger and get to know a single destination, but hotel rates are prohibitive for extended stays and group tours too fast-paced, with rigid itineraries?

Imagine traveling where you most want, when and how you want. Custom-tailoring your trips to suit your personal passions, energy and budget. An impossible dream? Read on!

Richard, in response to the post, “Agile Aging: An Introduction & an Invitation”
In my getting-older world, caretaking aside, I enjoy immensely watching my continuing family.

David, on the post, “Retirement as Our Admission Ticket to Satisfying Seniority”
The elephant in the room, of course, is the notion of mortality. It seems to accompany retirement in a major way and occupies many of our thoughts, even if we are loath to share them. Yes, there are those who, for religious, spiritual or other reasons, are little bothered by the upcoming end of life. One friend is counselled by a woman in Colorado who has written extensively on the afterlife which she is convinced is available, not from religious teachings, but because of the study she has made of persons who have reported out-of-body experiences where their “soul” has floated above their bodies in an operating room before being brought back to life. I have one relative who cheerfully announced, when his father fell ill, “We all stroke out in our seventies in my family.” Another has noted that she doesn’t really want to live much beyond eighty as, by that time, “I will have had the whole enchilada” and sees no reason to keep on trucking.

It’s the first morning of my Amtrak ride from Emeryville to Denver. I’m so absorbed in my Sunday newspaper that I don’t detect the Observation Car tables and chairs filling up around me. The fact that my new neighbors are almost totally silent contributes to the surprise. I look up to discover a distinctive party of two adult couples and six kids, ranging from teens to a toddler. Full beards and a bouquet of bonnets catch my eye. I’m about to meet the Millers of Orwell, Ohio.

In my roomette and ready to roll. I love my Amtrak sleeping compartment — snug, comfortable and private. I’ve never traveled in a single compartment before. Nancy and I usually book a larger double. This one reminds me of a shipboard cabin — no wasted space, everything in its place. Eight feet long, five wide, two facing benches, a shelf for my hand luggage, wall hooks for robe and pajamas and a giant window. All this on the upper level of my sleeper car, with great visibility. At night the attendant will work his magic and convert the benches into a surprisingly wide bed. The common bathroom is five paces along the corridor. My suitcase is safely stowed on the car’s lower level. I’m purring in my solo space, all set for the next two days and a night. Nine-fifteen a.m. — the first surge of movement. Right on time. Away we go!