Breaking bad: A senior looks at Falls Prevention Week
September 20, 2013
I'm stringing up garlands of fall leaves from the Dollar Store, and I'm doing what I tell my neighbor Dan never to do. I've hollered to him using my teacher voice: "What are you doing up on that ladder? Are you going up on the roof? Get off that roof."
It's "do as I say," for me, as usual. Dan and his wife are superior neighbors, and I don't want Dan to fall. As for me, it'll just be a minute to get these leaves strung up over my porch. I'm breaking Senior Fall Prevention Rule No. 1: Never. Ever. Climb a ladder without someone to steady it. And don't get on that roof.
The sign of senior-hood for those of us in our 50s and 60s is the moment when we decide not to go on our roof. That, along with wondering why we are on our roof, pretty much means we're mature and smart.
The ladder wobbles precariously, and I clutch the edge of the porch roof. I creep down, avoiding a broken hip at least for today.
We baby boomers are a jolly and delusional lot. We still like that old-time rock and roll. That kind of music just soothes our soul. So even though a glance in the mirror states otherwise, we still think we're 17 and can scamper up ladders lickety-split. But what many of us end up splitting are our hips. Or our tibias. Or femurs.
My particular delusion is that my bones must be super strong, as I've had a few tumbles that should have broken something important. Shaking my hand at oldness, I regularly jog the tree root-infested Empire Mine Trail. One facet of my foolishness is jogging the ominously titled Hard Rock part of this trail. That part of the trail is named for a reason. I have to keep looking down, scanning for roots and myriad rocks that leap up to meet me.
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I see seniors going at an easy pace using walking sticks. I don't need their stinking sticks.
But it turns out I do. I also hike with a group of mostly younger women some Saturdays. We hike, bring our dogs and get some exercise. One of the last times I hiked, our leader, Deb, took her dog down a little slope to a creek for some water. I know Deb is the alpha, so I follow her obediently down the hill and slip on a wet boulder. I land on my knee, which turns bright red. "Just a flesh wound," I holler.
Now comes the part I hate: All the younger women become solicitous. I've fallen before on hikes. The older one, a sturdy-footed dear friend, says tactfully, "You're jogging shoes are probably a bit slippery."
Some of the others glance at each other and then hike behind me with their hands out, palms up, to catch me should I fall again. They look like pilgrims beseeching the heavens.
That time, I did break something. I shattered the bone below my kneecap. I notice this bump a week later and see my doctor.
"You shattered your pompous obnoxious. How did this happen?"
I look down and swing my feet back and forth below the examination table. "Hiking," I mumble.
"Well, it might be a good idea," she comments, "to get a walking stick."
My souvenir from that hike is a permanently shattered bone bump that will be useful in identifying me, should I fall off a cliff hiking above the Yuba River.
Well, I still love rock and roll. I just tap out the beat with my walking stick, as I walk briskly along with "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" blasting from my phone.
Pride is overrated.
Sue Clark lives in Grass Valley.