Some years back, an extraordinarily innovative nonprofit, Civic Ventures, decided to fund a series of written and photographic essays documenting work being done by older Americans to improve the communities around them. They hired me and Alex Harris, a sublimely sensitive photographer who teaches at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, to look deeply at six efforts around the country. Retired doctors in California, Cuban refugee child-care workers in Miami, Habitat for Humanity's wandering RV wing... over a couple of years we spent our time with an inspirational group of people. This was during the period when it was common belief that retirees were interested only in golfing and settling down to be a drain on society--misperceptions that were contradicted every day by the men and women we met.

Civic Ventures still controls these essays, which were put out in booklet form as their Innovations series, and they haven't put them online in their entirety. You can get a flavor for the work and the people by following the links here. You'll meet a woman who heard from God while sitting in an old chicken coop, a retired bank executive working as a church custodian who can sometimes sense his dead wife in the stillness of a sanctuary, and other ordinary people doing extraordinary things.