A friend of mine, a polio victim, spends a lot of his time in a wheelchair. He’s comfortable with his situation now but only after having gone through much depression and angst. Another friend has walked with canes for most of her adult life after suffering an auto accident. She struggled through grit and determination, stayed out of a wheelchair for as long as she could. She now spends a lot of her time in a chair in order to get around more easily and without severe pain.
It’s astounding how unconscious people are! I’ve been with these friends in crowds, or even when we are just maneuvering down a street. When they are using their crutches or canes, they are terrified about being around other people. They don’t have much balance to begin with, so the slightest bump can send them reeling. When we’re walking together, I often feel like a blocking back opening a hole in the defense. I’ve practically smashed into people walking briskly right at us who seem to have absolutely no regard for who’s in front of them. And I’m not just talking about people on their cell phones!
I have had people crash into us; I’ve seen people almost knock my friends over; I’ve seen people stop short of crashing and then, almost incredulously, give them an evil stare as if to say, “How dare you impede my forward progress!”
There are many times that there are people in need, those with clear signs of difficulty like people using canes, crutches, and wheelchairs. But there are also those with an infirmity that no one notices who may need a little assistance. Seniors especially are vulnerable. Many have mobility issues, others don’t see or hear well. And their balance, even if they’re not using a cane or walker, is less stable.
Really, folks, we all need to slow down, look around, and be much more aware of those who might need a little assistance or move a bit more gingerly. It’s not asking much – I’m not even asking that you stop doing what you’re doing to help. Often there’s no help needed. Maybe just a bit more patience. I’m just sayin’.
Bart Astor (BartAstor.com) is a recognized expert in eldercare. His best-selling book,”Baby Boomer’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents” is now in its second printing and is available electronically on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. He has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, including ABC’s “Good Morning America” and PBS’s “MarketPlace.”