My Stories about Aging

I consider myself to be semi-old and I frequently introduce myself that way when I am presenting or being a panel member. No one, including me, knows exactly what it means, which is the way lot of my writing is.

I have experienced functional decline in aging but I have experienced even more functional improvement. Cognitively I feel more integrative. Emotionally I feel less reactive. Physically I feel more mindful and more appreciative of what I can do.

Review: Pereira Maintains

August 29, 2021

What do you call a book that delves deeply into matters of life and death, psychological theories of personality, and right action in the face of tyranny in less than 150 pages?

I call it a perfect meditation

Great writers and thinkers have produced thousands, millions, of pages of profound musings on issues Antonio Tabucchi wraps up faster than Perry Mason outs a killer.

The World I Want To Die In

June 4, 2021

As a semi-old person it is now obvious that nothing ever gets resolved, that you can never say, ‘there, that happened and it’s done,’ about anything more complicated than a baseball game — and sometimes even those results get ‘vacated’ years later.

Climate disasters and the imperative to Do Something Before It’s Too Late seem close enough at hand that, who knows, maybe even semi-old people like me will see massive death and devastation toward the end of our allotted time, but still, what does that resolve? It proves that humans should have taken climate change more seriously but we already know that. Meanwhile, the story continues however it continues.


mmmmmm m




Old Folks and VR

Old Folks and VR

April 2, 2021

AARP is into VR. AARPVR. Has a ring to it, doesn’t it.

They’ll be offering you their version of Virtual Reality at 55.

If not before — you want to stay in touch with your grandparents and parents in their assisted living community, don’t you? Well, we’ve got just the thing.

It’s called Alcove. Who says all the good names are taken? Alcove really nails it.

VR Birthday

VR Birthday

December 22, 2020

My plan for the day was pretty formless itself and when I noticed a cool looking jazz concert on the AltspaceVR Daily Events menu I knew what was coming next.

I know this must sound crazy to anyone who hasn’t been in a fully immersive Virtual World, but Saxy’s Jazz Club is right up there with any jazz club I’ve ever been to.

World Building for Semi-Old People

World Building for Semi-Old People

December 18, 2020

One of the main features of being Semi-Old is realizing you won’t get to see how most of the things you care about are going to work out, if they ever do.

Building Virtual Worlds is one way I am still active in this world now. Without a nicely resolved ending here, at least I can have things just the way I want in my own World, right?

But is just the way I want really what I want?


November 26, 2020

I’m not running from Old, but Old doesn’t tell the whole story.

Retired presents the same kind of problem. It suggests passivity instead of, possibly, a shift in activity rather than a reduction or cessation.

Caring changes with age, caring about specific people and also the general direction of the human race.

Part of it is: How much of that story, that I still care about, will I actually get to see?

This is a Semi-Old Person question.

Rebel Mode

June 14, 2020

Camus has aged well as an artist. Rebelling in the face of absurdity is an attractive stance to many, including me.

He also didn’t beat around the bush when it comes to Meaning, it wasn’t something abstract. It was, why shouldn’t I commit suicide?

If you were Sisyphus would you commit suicide? This is also not abstract, because to Camus you are Sisyphus. We’re all just rolling the boulder up the hill knowing it comes to nothing. That it gets washed away, at any time for no good reason.

Neuro Changes

March 5, 2020

I’m in my 70s, no parents left, lots of good friends have died.

No good friends had shown signs of dementia that I knew of, until we learned what was going on with one of our best friends.

All I felt at first was overwhelming sadness, no bottom to it.

He could juggle so many balls mentally, under pressure, and figure out what to do. He exercised. Played sports.

I thought if you used it you wouldn’t lose it, at least not for a long time. Turns out it’s not that simple.

I wanted to spend time with him as soon as we could.

Meditations on Mortality

Meditations on Mortality

July 8, 2019

Meditation isn’t a belief. It’s a behavior that gradually shapes us when we do it over and over. It’s shaped me, especially tamping down how I’d react almost like a reflex in certain situations.

That’s why I want to try using mortality as an object of meditation.

I’m not sure what’s Spiritual and what isn’t, but I know that our mortality matters to us every minute of every day whether we choose to pay attention to it or not.

New Place

December 18, 2018

There’s an elevator. I’m not very good at waiting although I’m getting better. A little. In the long run, this mechanical conveyance will be the true test of my adaptability. Waiting and elevator socializing, immortalized by Seinfeld. He made it such a Thing that you can’t elevator socialize without being aware that you’re elevator socializing.

I was pretty sure I’d hate it and maybe I will. What I’m not missing at all is stairs. My knees suck and I paid a price for every trip up and down carrying a box of something to my car back at the old place. There must have been 20–30 stair-times in two Advil days.

Leaving the Place Labelled, “Home”

December 6, 2018

I’m right inside the change after 12 years here in one place. I’m trying to capture what you can only feel when you’e right in this moment.

Every day I remove more of the things I lived with so they don’t all disappear suddenly at the very end.

I want to feel complete, that my time here has an end that feels like an end, an end that I imagined and then more or less did. I make sure to have last get-togethers with my closest friends here and say how much they’ve meant to me. Not pretending that things won’t be different now.

Old Guy on Tour

Old Guy on Tour

November 7, 2018

When I learned that CLA was coming to the USA, renting an American version of the Khmer Magic Music Bus and playing an Arts4Peace Tour from Vermont to Virginia, I knew I wanted to be part of it. They didn’t need me. I’m not some savior they couldn’t do without. I just figured I could make things a little smoother, a little easier.

Oculus Go for Old People, Part 1

Oculus Go for Old People, Parts 1–5

June 28, 2018-May 19, 2019

You don’t have to be old to read this article. You just have to be willing to read something written from a post-career perspective.

I’m not so old that I need virtual reality because I can’t do anything in the actual one any more. I will someday, but for now, VR is a way for me to stay engaged, an endless source of projects that interest me, that I can work on by myself or with others, both of which I am doing.

Language Learning Later in Life

Language Learning Later in Life

January 19, 2018

Learning a new language is especially foolish when you’re old, because fluency takes years and who knows how long the commitment can be sustained? Something new that can be mastered in a few months makes more sense.

But everything doesn’t have to make sense. Being retired but still active and full of energy changes the equation about what making sense even means.

Being Back to Normal

December 20, 2017

My month in Phnom Penh was as much a personal exploration as it was about arts organizations and 360 video. It was my fourth post-retirement trip — one with my wife, one with our son, one with a close friend, and now one on my own.

Each time a bit more protection was stripped away. I felt a more emotional connection to the situation. The Cambodia stories I tapped into traveling with my friend and two Cambodians hit me deep and hard. They made me cry. They made me want to go back for more. With all the protections stripped away.

You Feel Like Crap — But The Time Is Now

November 12, 2017

Maybe you set The Plan in motion a year ago, maybe it was six months. It’s been your frame of reference because you care about it. You think there’s a chance you can contribute to something worthwhile in a place that needs it. Not that you ever really know what will come of anything.

Suddenly, your physical body goes completely haywire in some way. The signs might have been there but who knew the situation could get so serious, so over the top, medically?

3,000–5,000 Days

October 12, 2017

We can make a difference in our life duration, but our thoughts and behavior are just one factor in a larger equation.

As we age, the gap narrows between what will probably happen and what actually happens because there’s just not as much time. I’ve made it to 68 and all the things that possibly could have prevented that didn’t.

I feel like it’s reasonable at this point to project a probable remaining life span for myself that I can think of in days. My working number is 3,000–5,000.

Talking About It

September 10, 2017

After I was diagnosed ten years ago with a form of blood cancer, I started talking more about end of life. I led workshops. Spoke openly about having cancer, as if it wasn’t something to keep quiet about. I became a hospice volunteer caregiver. I try not to overdo it; I hope I haven’t. I’m just trying to help bring dying out of the dark and let it feel normal.

And now I feel that way about peeing. Penis talk might be even more difficult than death and dying talk. The two main dramatically different functions is some of it. The screwing part is such a personal and cultural powerhouse it kind of overshadows the peeing part, which most of us take for granted. Until it starts changing, usually along with the other part.

Proactive Peeing

June 8, 2017

Proactive Peeing is personal problem solving. The problem, beyond the proximal cause, is how do I stay independent?

An infant has to master Peeing 101 to gain independence. It’s basically the second prerequisite after holding your own head up. Older people have to re-master it to stay independent, which we are driven to do.

Old Age itself is a series of transitions in a consistent direction — more support, less independence. But Dependence is almost never valued in our culture, only Independence and Helping Others, not Being Helped. How are you supposed to feel good about yourself when you’re having trouble peeing the way you’ve always peed? We all missed that workshop, or at least I did.

Now It’s Personal: Getting Rid of Books

June 1, 2017

Books are the hardest for me. I think they’re beautiful and when I’m just sitting back in my chair and letting my mind wander, I let my gaze pass slowly over them displayed sideways or front facing on my funky shelves.

I used to have thousands of them but we’ve moved three times already in my adult life so there have been multiple reductions in force. All the easy ones are gone. I’m down to about a thousand now, crammed into a small room mostly devoted to them. And we’re moving again. Maybe for the last time, and even if it isn’t, it’s almost certainly the last time I will be a significant participant in the moving process.

Fathers and Sons

October 12, 2015

The 1960s in the US and Western Europe had a lot in common with the 1860s in Russia.

The big deal then was emancipating the serfs and adjusting to completely new social relations. The liberals of the time were the educated gentry who tried to get with the program. Conservatives felt the new ways were an affront to everything sacred.

These reactions to major cultural change are dramatized in “Fathers and Sons,” the great Russian novel, published in 1862.



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Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos