I have always been an enthusiastic walker. I calculate that I walked 18,000 miles on Siesta Key Beach during my eighteen years in Sarasota. Later, on the Atlantic coast, where the sand is brown, not white, I walked the beach daily during the time I lived in Fernandina.
Here in the Gainesville area, I walked the Santa Fe Community College campus regularly with yoga friend, Alberta Junkin, until she went to Haiti with the Peace Corps. I also walked The Hills of Santa Fe with a neighbor and former nun, Mary Jo Carlysle. Our religious beliefs did not match, but our walking pace did. After that, I walked every wooded trail in the Gainesville area with my good friend and birding buddy, Sunny Bynum. Walking with a buddy deepens friendship, but only if the friendship was meant to be.
Beginning in December, 1992, I began to walk my current neighborhood, The Villages of West End. For many years, I covered every side street and cul-de-sac of this pleasant community, always wondering why other residents were not out breathing fresh air like me. Alas, one day, while striding down a slope and turning onto a street near my home, I stepped in a small groove in the pavement and turned my ankle. Momentum kept me going three more long steps before my face hit the pavement. My left side cheek bone and upper teeth never fully recovered.
A few weeks later, I took another fall while striding through Home Depot’s garden center. A woman shopper and an unrelated male shopper got me up. I was okay, but I took the hint and never strode anywhere ever again.
When my gerontologist heard these stories he arranged for me to get a walking cane, courtesy of Medicare. I was processed through a social worker and matched up with a medical supply store where I received a free cane. It didn’t help and I never used it.
Getting in and out of my little Acura hatchback became more and more difficult. I needed a car with a seat higher off the ground. In 2014 a Honda CRV was chosen to match the height of my behind, and that still works perfectly. Now, several years later, I am no longer driving, but keep my Honda so that friends and family can chauffeur me in my car which fits my body. I can’t get into their little low-slung sports cars or their gigantic pickup trucks.
Going up steps is difficult, but going down is even harder. There is a small step down from my kitchen into my garage. With step stones bought at Home Depot I turned one normal step down into two tiny steps down, which helped enormously. By placing a quad cane there to hold onto, I felt even more secure. But now, five years later, to get from kitchen down into garage, I need the quad cane on my right side and a strong patient person on my left.
Throughout all this, other falls occurred. One, in my kitchen, was too bloody and gruesome to describe here. I asked my gerontologist to arrange purchase of a walker with the financial help of Medicare. That happened, and while picking up the walker, I purchased a second quad cane. I walked with the aid of the quad cane or a person until I wrecked my body cleaning the kitchen counter. That back pain prompted full time use of the walker and taught me to give up cleaning.
Next, came wheel chairs, which I had been using at medical offices when available. I decided to buy one of my own and went to a medical supply store and was fitted with the right sized chair which easily folds and goes into the car when one of my children take me for medical appointments or to the mall for a bi-annual clothes shopping spree. They are kind enough to push me.
My home is small and parking spaces are getting scarce inside my house. I still use my walker all the time at home and sometimes in public places. I am not complaining about the need for all these walking aids. I am ninety, happy to be alive and writing stories about it. If I had to choose a favorite from among the cane, two quad canes, Rollator walker, wheel chair, or the supportive arm of a friend, I would definitely choose the arm of the friend. I like the human touch.
But wait, there is more! Now, courtesy of Medicare, I have a new power chair! After being interviewed by an authority, I was deemed eligible to receive a rechargeable electric power chair. Its charging station is in my dining room. Every day I practice backing into that narrow slot. I also drive through the house practicing U-turns, turning sharp corners, and backing up without rear view mirrors. The chair does have a horn. Beep, beep! But no radio.
Times have certainly changed since my glory days of hiking. I no longer stride, or even stroll, anywhere, on my own. Thanks to helpful family and friends, I still manage to go places and do things. It is good to have those long-ago beach walks, birding buddies, and walks through the woods to remember.
The top speed of my chair is six miles per hour, but it is not thoroughly broken in, and has yet to be taken to its maximum speed. The chair cannot tolerate wetness, but watch for me on the road on any sunny, dry day and be prepared to eat my dust!