Great story...it could have been my own, with a few differences.
A number of years ago, when I was in my early 50's, the book that changed my life was "Beyond Backpacking" (I found "Trail Life" to be even better).
In my case I had pretty much given up on backpacking due to knee and ankle problems. But after reading Jardine's book I thought there was a good chance my wife and I could start again.
I bit the bullet and gave up on my trusty Svea with much regret, but it currently inhabits a prominent spot on my old stove display shelf (I fire it up once in a while for old time's sake, and take it on car-camping trips). I now use small canister stoves or Caldera Cone Tri-Ti alcohol stoves.
I sewed, scoured eBay, purchased a few full-price items, and without breaking the bank was able to come up with a sub-15 lb base weight (currently down to around 13 lbs for me, 11 for my wife). I continue sewing, and as items wear out I hope to drop to near 10 lbs.
I too found hiking poles absolutely essential. I can't imagine hiking without them, for all the same reasons you mention.