The Fellowship Of Shower Chairs And Walkers

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.

4 thoughts on “The Fellowship Of Shower Chairs And Walkers

  1. Carol Hiestand says:

    I hear about someone who is 70 and I think of an elderly person and realize I am almost 70. I see myself, not as others see me.
    – hard to accept. People in our church seem to be glad we are there (our church is very young). I am not sure they quite know what to do with us? I am surprised to find myself feeling a bit irrelevant and didn’t expect it to happen quite so soon. Part of it is our own uncertainty, I suppose, as we navigate financial/career challenges, we never expected to face at this age, leading to more questions about my faith than ever and less answers. . And so we continue to do our “work” sometime with a counselor, sometimes with others who listen and love us and simply entrust our future to the one who knows it. It’s not that it’s simple. It’s that it seems to be the only way to not give into fear as God works. Meanwhile, we find much joy in our grandchildren and see the role we have in building into their future.

  2. Gail milleard says:

    Getting ready for retirement, We moved to Little Rock, Ark last summer to be close to my brother and his many children and their families as well as my parents who live in retirement community where the average age is around 80. We lived in that retirement community for a year while building our aging-in-place home in the country.

    I wouldn’t trade the past year for anything. It has helped me face aging living around my elders. What an eye-opening experience. Now for the grace to trust God for His daily manna as new needs arise.

    Thanks for your message today

  3. Michelle Van Loon says:
    Michelle Van Loon

    Carol and Gail, thanks for your insights. My husband and I are facing decisions about where we’ll land longer-term, and are doing some of the processing about where we “belong” at this stage of our lives and beyond. There are no simple answers, especially when we don’t see ourselves as seniors quite yet. But an honest assessment of where we’re going (rather than relying on what’s worked for us in the past, or how we wish things were financially or health-wise) is what we need to do as we discern those next steps.

  4. Amanda Cleary Eastep says:
    Amanda Cleary Eastep

    I’m with all of you. My husband and I have dreams of acreage in North Carolina, but instead we’ve had job changes and we wonder about what a move means for our relationships with our children and aging parents. And to Carol’s point, yes, at 50, I look at myself in the mirror and think who are you and how did you get in my house? I waver between trusting God for the next tiniest step and wondering if my dreams are only that. My prayers more than ever have been for my desires to be his and to have the wisdom and strength to live them out.

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