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Hi-ho, HyVee

April 24, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Bill Foster is a doctor turned patient. He retired from his career of practicing medicine in Louisiana. Now he goes to dialysis every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and lives in TigerPlace, an independent living facility.

Like many residents with regular medical needs, Foster takes the facility’s shuttle to and from his tri-weekly appointments.

But today is Wednesday, a particularly cold one in February, and that means shopping day, a pleasant event for participants. On these days, the residents take the shuttle to go grocery shopping.

Those going on the trip gather in the lobby, which is lushly furnished with heavy golden curtains and dark wooden furniture. Some residents wait in their wheelchairs, and some with canes, for the shuttle to pull into the circle drive at 9 a.m. A few others pace around or talk to executive director Eric Minturn.

Just before 9 a.m., lifestyle coordinator Patti Coble walks through the double sliding doors with a rush of cold air. Coble, who also drives the bus, calls for shoppers to start loading onto the vehicle. The quicker everyone gets on, the quicker she can shut the doors against the cold.

This can be quite a process. On this frigid Wednesday, the shuttle’s lift is moving slowly and takes a little longer than usual to load a resident in his motorized wheelchair into the larger back door of the bus.
The shuttle, a Ford Starcraft with a 350E Super Duty engine, is decorated with a Mizzou-gold TigerPlace banner reading “Re-defining retirement” that runs around the bus’s exterior. The slogan is surrounded by a series of other smaller words: regrow, reinvent, rekindle, rediscover, and re-examine.

The hook of Foster’s cane hangs on the plastic dividing wall between his front-row seat and the door of the shuttle. Three other shoppers sit near the front in their beige, brown and green jackets with their hands folded in their laps as they joke with Coble.

Banter on the bus gets juicy before take off. After Coble offers blankets to the riders, passengers discuss the potential fine for being caught riding a bus without a seatbelt. One men comments on the reasonable price and quality taste of a nearby Chinese buffet. For the most part, they sit quietly­­­­ ­— unless Coble pulls them into the conversation.

As the shuttle pulls out of the circle drive, with the lift closed and a final resident’s wheelchair strapped to the floor, Coble asks the most important question of the morning:

HyVee or Walmart, which one?”

It’s no question. HyVee rings out from the gray-haired crowd. Someone hollers out “hi-lo,” a reference to card counting in Blackjack, which is received with laughter from the group.

“Hi-ho, HyVee,” Coble says, and they’re off.

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