Working Both Sides of the Aisle: Community Conversations about Aging

[Editor’s Comment: Please join Laird for this amazing opportunity offered at the Aging Better Together Conference!]

Back in early January Alice Alexander and I worked out an agreement for me to conduct a pre-conference half-day workshop entitled Community Conversations about Aging: What You Need to Talk about and How. It was scheduled for May 19, as a lead-in to the regional Aging Better Together cohousing conference, happening May 20-21 in Salt Lake City.

At the time I figured this would be a natural extension of my ongoing work with cohousing groups (I’ve worked with about 60 of them over the past 18 years), and build nicely on the momentum I’ve observed among established communities who are increasingly questioning where they stand 10-20 years after being built. Now what, they’re asking, which includes some serious head scratching about how to handle an aging population—which is why the conference is timely.

In recent years I’ve done more work with groups wrestling with delicate questions about what they can and can’t do for members who want to age in place. In the process of delivering that help, I’ve learned quite a bit about what the territory, including what the hard questions are, why they’re hard, and how to navigate them successfully. That’s what I’ll be delivering May 19.

Then things got complicated. At the end of January I went into the hospital with persistent lower back pain and discovered to my horror that I had cancer as a root cause. I was diagnosed with a bad case of multiple myeloma (MM). In essence my bone marrow was producing an excess of plasma cells and not enough of the good stuff (such as red blood cells and healthy white blood cells). Further, I was close to renal failure and suffering from calcium leaching from my skeleton. Yikes!

Suddenly, my full attention was focused on my health and doing what I could to successfully battle the cancer.

Delivering a workshop on aging in community didn’t seem so important, so I told Alice we better place that on hold.

Now it’s three months later, and I’ve responded well to the initial rounds of chemotherapy. I’ve contained the cancer and am getting ready for a stem-cell transplant procedure in July at the Mayo Clinic, where they offer cutting edge treatment for MM. Meanwhile, I’ve bounced back from the chaos and brain fog characteristic of chemo, and I have been cleared by my doctors to engage judiciously in a limited return to work.

For a variety of reasons I’ve circled on my calendar my half-day workshop at the cohousing conference, May 19, as the day I’ll come back. It will be my first day back in the saddle, and I figure it’s a propitious occasion. While I thought I would be presenting from one side of the experience—that of a person who’s mainly concerned with how to help the group function at its best—it occurs to me that I am suddenly qualified to personally bridge to both sides of the equation: from those facing death, to those living with people who are facing death. It’s a powerful bridge.

While the workshop already has 26 people signed up there’s room for more. I hope you’ll join us. Click here to register or click here for more information.

Category: Past Events

Tags: Aging, Conference, Past events, Senior

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