In the movie “Strangers in Good Company,” a group of elderly women slowly hobbled out of a lame bus, onto an isolated Canadian dirt road, and into their lives. The bus driver though younger and nevertheless mature and wiser than she appeared, injured her ankle upon exiting the bus. All of these women were stranded, alone, vulnerable, and dependent on a world for survival.
The movie was an early docu-drama which captured the story of a group of elderly women figuring out how to endure a seemingly hopeless situation. At first, I thought the intention behind the movie was simple entertainment – they said the darndest things which had me laughing out loud. But so much more was happening.
With canes and exaggerated limps, the women ambled away from the bus and toward a dilapidated and clearly abandoned house (a clear metaphor). Knowing they would be there overnight, the women got to work making do. This was a generation of women that made a home from scraps and making do was part of life. Each contributed in their unique way, creatively tapping into dormant problem-solving skills. They found themselves strong, resilient, capable and happy, perhaps for the first time in many years. They had reverted to an earlier version of themselves which the film captured quite nicely with pictures of their childhood, their marriage, a babies birth, graduation.
When the women were finally rescued, none of them looked relieved. I sensed that none of them (save the younger bus driver) wanted to leave a world in which they were completely accepted and a significant contributor. In this isolated countryside, they had meaning, purpose, importance, and real community. They were not being rescued; they were being sent back to where they were no longer relevant.
What are your fears of aging? Does irrelevance sneak into your life today? Do you give up your power to those you believe know better about what is best for you? Or do you do that to others? Have you judged elderly people in the past? How do you want to be as you reach the last moments of your life?