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:

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.

Dear Readers,

Unanticipated health challenges kept me away from my blogging keyboard in October. Look for a return to normal productivity in November.

Warm Halloween Greetings,

September has been a transitional month for Nancy and me. From summer to fall, stultifying heatwaves to the first blessed rains. But also shifting gears from our Northwest Coast vacation mobility to more sedentary routines here at our Bay Area retirement community. Unpacking and storing suitcases, dining with friends, rebooking postponed medical appointments, queuing up for our bivalent COVID booster, attacking teetering stacks of unsolicited mail, even participating in a wildfire evacuation drill.

For my catch-up reading, I’ve selected four inviting titles from local libraries:
• A historical novel to deepen my knowledge of the San Juan Islands;
• An ad hoc trio of wilderness adventures featuring reclusive female protagonists.
All are well-crafted national prizewinners. I’d like to recommend them for your autumn enjoyment.

Nancy and I dedicated August to our summer vacation. The plan was to get away from the San Francisco Bay Area during the worst of the summer heatwave. With hindsight, that timetable clearly needed recalibration!

We drove up and back to Washington State’s Puget Sound. (This crowded waterway is in the process of being rebranded as the Salish Sea, in belated recognition of a once locally prominent Native American tribe.) There we boarded a fleet of ferries that carried us through a series of week-long vacation rentals in the San Juan Islands.

Who says old age is dull? Here are three incidents that touched my life within the space of a single July week.

Midnight 9-1-1
I awoke after 11pm with a terrible pain in my chest. Smack in the center, about the size of a tennis ball, so sharp I could barely draw a breath. For the past day or so, I’d been suffering from acute indigestion, waves of gas and sour heartburn. But this pain wasn’t moving, just growing worse. Flat on my back, I re-visualized an AARP sidebar: “HEART ATTACK WARNING SIGNS. Chest discomfort, pressure, squeezing or pain. Shortness of breath. Even if you’re not sure, have it checked out. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives. That means your own.”

As mentioned in my May 31 post, I’ve been working on restoring a healthier balance in my life. This includes making time and space for positive activities and feelings, plus treating each new season as a fresh beginning with inviting opportunities.

In this spirit, let me share with you four agile-aging explorations I’ve undertaken in June. Two examined differing perspectives on the milestone of turning 80. Another studied four-legged firefighters. The last one carried Nancy and me to a forest sanctuary.

Intimidating political and economic turbulence swirls all around. I’m trying to keep hope alive and feet on the ground.

I was surprised to discover that May marks this blog’s third anniversary, with 50 posts already published. The writing project still feels fresh; there’s seldom a shortage of new topics for monthly exploration. As for the mindful aging the blog was launched to encourage, each day convenes a continuing seminar.

On the other hand, May 2019 seems an eon away. The main reason is probably that the intervening period has been so action-packed. We’ve witnessed Trump’s defeat, denial and a violent insurrection. International stability is being throttled by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Nancy’s and my personal lives have been totally reshuffled by relocating to a retirement community. Dominating both these macro and micro domains have been COVID’s disruptive invasion and stubborn resurgences. Retirement was supposed to be a transition to tranquility. Instead, we’ve been riding a roller-coaster.

Short or long, three years seems a fitting period for stock-taking. What have I been learning about how to blog? More important, about how to age? Here are some candid self-assessments. As always, I’ll value your feedback and your reciprocal progress reports.