By Anita Lustrea
When my husband Mike and I moved from Chicago to Sarasota I had no idea what was in store. I might have been able to tell you about Siesta Beach, voted the #1 beach in America for umpteen years in a row, or The Ringling Museum where art and nature walk hand in hand. I didn’t, however, anticipate the higher than average median age of my new town. Of course moving into a 55+ community, while affordable, didn’t help the feeling that I was surrounded by older people. I’m 57, not a spring chicken, but not yet ready for Medicare. I felt somewhat suffocated by gray hair and wrinkles. Of course copping to my own gray hair, covered every six weeks at Fantastic Sams, wasn’t something I was willing to do. Everyone else was old or getting there, not me!
Nine months in to our new life I’m making peace with all the older bodies I see daily, including my own. I’m also finding great grace in a particular practice found inside my 55+ community. Many of the homes are sold furnished. Part of the contents of our home when we closed and occupied it, besides a nice 50 inch screen TV, 2 newer Lazy Boy recliners and some white Florida wicker furniture, was a wheel chair, a shower chair, a walker, and special toilet safety frame handles, if you don’t know what those are, neither did I. All of these items were needed by my aging and declining father. He has since gone into a nursing home and now those items are stored for the next person in need.
I’ve gotten to know a friend in the community who is younger, like me, ok humor me, and in great shape. She just ruptured her achilles tendon. When I asked how Mike and I could help she said, “Can you get the shower chair down from the shelf in my utility room. It was here when I moved in and I figured I’d need it eventually. I just didn’t think it would be this soon!” There is a lot of medical equipment sharing in my new community as well as storing of equipment for the next resident to occupy. It’s no longer an if scenario, it’s when.
I ride my bike almost daily now because of an issue with my hip. Yes, I’m talking about my ailments now. And I swim laps and sit in a hot tub for the same reason. I now have more compassion for those who slowly walk across the street in front of my car and need extra grace in the check out lane in the grocery store. Frankly, I’m seeing myself more and more. I was a little afraid to look ahead too far but I’m learning there are caring people filled with compassion and willing to come alongside and assist with kind words and tangible help. As I sit in Starbucks writing this post, I’ve seen at least 20 high schoolers walk in for an after school iced tea or iced coffee. There are plenty of younger faces here in Sarasota but my sensibilities toward older folks have been heightened in this move. Probably the best byproduct has been exercising more grace toward all, including myself.
Question: When we’re young, most of us see older people as “them” – people different than us. Midlife friends, how have you discovered that you are experiencing a growing kinship with older people?
Anita Lustrea hosts the Faith Conversations podcast. She is a Spiritual Director, Author and Media Coach. (Click here to visit her website.) Anita’s most recent books include What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom From the Secrets We Keepand Shades of Mercy, about her beloved Northern Maine.