The Man Who Keeps Things Moving

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Shephard Odom made a career out of keeping people moving; he has not slowed down since. An integral part of many New Yorkers’ commute, Mr. Odom worked as a Motorman for the New York City Transit Authority for 30 years.

Sitting in the dining room at Rexford Place, the Independent and Assisted Living community in Lanham, MD that is now his home, he jokingly points to his watch and laughs, “This is what I got after 30 years underground-a transit authority watch!” As he continues, though, it becomes clear that he gained much more than just a token gift. “The New York City Transit is truly one of the wonders of the modern world. It allows over a million people to get onto the Island of Manhattan in just a couple of hours. The trains were only 90 seconds apart and the crowds were so rushed that operating the doors required a tremendous attention to detail on the part of the Motorman,” recalls Mr. Odom.

The meticulous nature of his job helped him develop skills that later proved useful to him as a 65-year-old college freshman. After retiring from the transit authority, Mr. Odom took a part-time job and finally did what he came to New York City to do over 30 years earlier-went to college. He enrolled at York College in New York as a full-time student.

“It was such a unique experience to go back to school at that age. I was a senior citizen when I graduated from college!,” explained Mr. Odom. “I received the same treatment as all the other students though. I even had to complete my gym credits. I think some of my classmates were sure that I was never going to be able to do it, but I finished with great marks.” The challenge of working while going to school kept Mr. Odom motivated and focused on his goal. He graduated from college in 1980 with a B.A. in Social Work.

Mr. Odom quickly found work with a senior citizen group in the city. He worked with a company that maintained personal response system pull cords to help keep seniors safe and independent.

After suffering a heart attack, he moved to Maryland to live with his son for medical reasons. The arrangement worked out for quite some time, but his son, a busy, professional, was always away from home. Mr. Odom found he was spending a lot of time alone. A diabetic, he realized he needed a little more assistance than his son could provide.

Even though Mr. Odom looked at several retirement communities while considering his move, he knew that Rexford Place was right for him the first time he visited. “I used to drive by while it was being built, so I started investigating early. When I found out they offered 24-hour professional services, I knew I wanted to move here. I looked at a couple of other places, but it was clean and beautiful here, and the staff was so friendly and helpful.”

Rexford Place has been Mr. Odom’s home for the past four years, and he has never regretted his decision to move. “The best thing about living at Rexford Place is not being alone anymore. I also enjoy all the services that are available to me should I need them,” he says. He especially enjoys the dining hall services, since, he attests, “I love not having to cook or wash dishes anymore. At my age, that’s a relief because I feel like I could even burn water!”

These services allow Mr. Odom to maintain a hassle-free, independent lifestyle, while providing him with the security of knowing that all his future needs will continue to be met. Dwon Williamson, the Marketing Director at Rexford Place, points out, “Our mission here is to promote aging in place. We offer everything from independent living all the way up to level-three assisted living, so we can provide a wide variety of services to our residents, but this is not a facility. It is a community where we strive to make senior living enjoyable and affordable.”

Being comfortable in his new home has allowed Mr. Odom to spend more of his time staying active in the greater community in Greenbelt. Shortly after moving to Maryland, a friend suggested that he join the Greenbelt Golden Age Club, a senior citizen’s group that is civically and politically influential in Prince George’s county, in order to meet people. An active member since 1995, he became the Club’s Chaplain in 2001.

Of the Golden Age Club, he notes, “Membership provides me with a great deal of knowledge about local issues and politics. There are group trips and speakers as well. The Club has really helped me to feel like a part of the community of Greenbelt.” As Chaplain, he has worked hard to make things happen in his new community.

His community involvement has helped make his transition to retirement life seamless. From celebrating graduation day at 65 to becoming part of a politically influential group in his new community, Mr. Odom has always kept things moving in his own life. The man who helped so many New Yorkers move to and from Manhattan everyday continues to maintain a rigorous schedule for himself.

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