I have just spent the past few days hobbling around with a foot injury. It was totally self-inflicted, I did all the damage myself by going for a run in slightly slippery conditions and, bang, there it was, a damaged ligament. I know,I know, enough people have said it: “running is bad for you,” but I enjoy it – usually.
Anyway, this time it wasn’t so enjoyable and I have been icing, heating, massaging and taking copious other measures to try to get back on two feet. Not least because it is really debilitating: I found the simplest of tasks difficult to perform. Take, for instance, vacuuming the house. To vacuum effectively you need to change direction several times, you need to reach out, to balance on one leg sometimes – yes I am a very active vacuumer – it all gets very difficult when you only have one foot that is playing ball.
Springing out of my chair to answer the phone – not possible; unloading the dishwasher becomes a slow and painful experience; I even have to think about which foot will take my weight when I get out of bed.
All of which got me thinking. All the things that I take for granted as a fit and healthy 40-something will one day desert me. There will come a time when doing the housework, going to the shops, even getting in and out of the car, will be a painful, slow and cumbersome process. And suddenly I am aware that there are many, many people around me who suffer these inconveniences every day.
The elderly person who fumbles to get money out of her purse because of the arthritis in her fingers; the old man who bashes me with his shopping basket because he isn’t sprightly enough to change direction; the person who has to peer really closely at the menu before making a choice, because her eyesight is failing; the person on crutches or with a walking stick who hesitates before walking across a slightly uneven surface.
You may remember a programme a few years ago, where a young reporter dressed up as an old person and experienced living with a number of different incapacities. Over the course of several different incarnations, that journalist experimented with diminished hearing, impaired vision and limited mobility. I always wondered why the programme makers didn’t use actual old people to make the documentary but I guess, no, infact I know, the reality would have been nowhere near as interesting or as entertaining. Headline news: “elderly person can’t walk very fast” is not really a gripping headline.
In fact, as any-one with any form of incapacity knows, being unable to walk, see, hear or move freely is as far from interesting as it is possible to get – it is a damned nuisance and it would be good if the rest of the world stopped tutting and muttering and instead showed some empathy.