I wasn’t planning to write another book. I had just gone through several major life changes, including closing my business after thirty years of juggling clients, projects, aspiring authors, and creative partners. If I had ever pictured retirement as an endless vacation, two life events put those images to rest. One was coming to grips with my own aging; the other was Covid-19.
The coming-to-grips part was the more difficult of the two. January passed in a haze of decision-making about everything from whether to continue driving or turn in my car keys to a choice among potential living arrangements. In February, I went to visit my younger daughter in Florida, celebrated my eighty-fourth birthday, and began to look for answers to some of my pressing questions.
A few words about looking for answers: The question about driving was a big one for me. It also wasn’t one I couldn’t answer without digging into the subject. I started with AAA’s suggestions for older drivers and Googled my way through pages and pages of pertinent information, pros and cons, and blog posts. Then, I interviewed a neurologist who treats older patients and a young woman who works with families of older adults who are grappling with the driving dilemma.
When I was finished with the driving question, I moved on to how and where to live—alone, with or without a caregiver; with one of my children; or in assisted living. I went through the same process, this time, interviewing a ninety-five-year-old friend of mine who had opted to remain in her home with part-time caregivers, and the manager of an assisting-living facility.
In short, I researched every question I had, trying to look at the answers from multiple perspectives. By the time I returned home from my Florida visit, it was March ninth, just days before the pandemic was officially confirmed, and the country went into lock-down. Dealing with Covid has been a monumental challenge for everyone—obviously, harder on some people than others. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I had sold my condo (not something I had ever planned to do) and temporarily moved in with my older daughter in St. Louis. After four months, we packed everything that would fit in a van and drove to Florida, which turned out to be a permanent move. Living with my daughters was also something I had never planned to do.
The upside to the Covid year—yes, there really was an upside—was that by Mid-March, I knew there was value to all my soul searching, research, and interviewing. My questions were the ones other older adults were surely asking; the answers were what we all needed. What I had so far was the foundation of a book.
I know I said I didn’t plan to write another book, but it was a year filled with many things I didn’t plan to do but did anyway. I spent all of 2020 writing the book, which was quite a departure from my previous books. To begin with, I knew little to nothing about how to manage the aging process, even though I was in the middle of it, so I had to search for insights and answers. Second, I didn’t want to write a memoir about my own life, but I did want the book to be a conversation between the reader and me. And, finally, to broaden the conversation, I knew I needed to include other voices of real people.
Ultimately, the book became one-part personal reflections on my own experience; one-part insights, observations, and facts based on research; and one-part interviews with experts in various fields and with older people who are trying to age with grace.
How to Age with Grace was published in February. Now, the hard part begins: letting the world know the book exists, why they want to own it, and how to purchase it. I know marketing will fill at least all of 2021, and I hope I have something tangible to show for my efforts by February 2022, when I turn eighty-five.