Do you have trouble getting into your pants in the morning? Assuming, that is, you get into your pants in the morning. I’m not being pervy, or anything, you might have problems standing up and keeping your balance, or with bending your arms so you t-shirt or vest doesn’t go on as smoothly as it really should. Basically, are you getting old?
My wheelchair racing friends will no doubt just say “Dude, really?” and get on with getting on. Me, I’ve had about six weeks of reduced flexibility, an ongoing problem with cellulitis on my shin which finally seems to be clearing up, an extra bout of falling down when I stand up, and a bit more forgetfulness than is normal, even for me. Basically, I’m getting old.
Typically, at least until recently, I have been a bit of a dressing gymnast. Nobody likes a show-off in the morning, but I had been able to stand on one leg while I pulled my boxers on and then one morning, round the start of December, I couldn’t.
Do you ever just blank in the middle of a really routine action so that you couldn’t, on pain of cattle-prod, remember what you were supposed to do next? PINs and passwords are like that. If you remember the first digit or character, then muscle memory takes over and everything flows nicely. I remember guitar chord progressions being the same. If ever I had to stop, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to pick up again where I left off, I would have to start again al capo. On the odd occasion when I come across one of those upside down number pads at a petrol station, I am completely buggered. I don’t remember the PIN, I remember how my fingers move.
So, one morning, around the beginning of December, I was standing in my usual spot between bed and wardrobe, left leg in my favourite blue-striped boxers and when I went to lift my right leg into them I couldn’t remember how exactly to do it. My arm seemed to be in the way and when I tried to lift my knee high enough, there was a pain in my hip and groin. Now, I’ve never exactly been Stretch Armstrong when it comes to my flexibility, but I hadn’t until then had a problem getting into my pants in the morning. I managed after a couple of confusing seconds to sit down on the edge of the bed and cover my embarrassment.
Now my normal degree of gymnasticism is not exactly Olympian. I’m not going to impress or intimidate Louis Smith or indeed the Russian judges with my Getting Dressed routine in the mornings. However, it’s not supposed to hurt or be difficult, is it? Of all the things I do with and to my body, covering it so the rude bits don’t dangle offensively has been relatively straightforward to date. Getting dressed is a low-tariff event, after all.
Still, I’ve nearly finished my second course of antibiotics in an attempt to clear up some cellulitis. I’ve reached the stage now where taking the pills, two of them, twice a day, has become routine and that’s a problem. A bit like adding salt to my porridge, I can’t always remember whether I’ve taken them and a couple of mornings I thought I had when of course I hadn’t. Sometimes I end up with very salty porridge and sometimes I might as well eat gently boiled mud. Similarly, a 10-day course of antibiotics has so far taken 12 days. I should finish it tomorrow, as long as I remember to take the last three doses between now and then. That’s not a given.
Now, what about standing up? My balance problems have so far been a source of comedy rather than frustration or worry, but there’s been a bit of deterioration over the past few months. Most mornings, unless I’m very careful about how I get out of bed, I immediately sit down again on my first attempt to rise. I need to make sure my feet are closer to the edge of the bed to make it on my first attempt. My memory for names and things has never been great but I haven’t until now forgotten events. I noticed my first example of that last week and of course I’ve now forgotten what it was. D’oh. I even had a wee tremor at the weekend which resulted in my ground coffee spraying irritatingly over the counter instead of going into the holder thingie in my vesuvio.
All of this is just me getting old. I can do things to work on my flexibility. I’ve dug out my yoga mat and subscribed to Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube. I’ll get started on a training plan with the aim of running a marathon in June, if it goes ahead. I should have done the first run on that plan today but I’m wiped after a truly bad night of sleep. Starting tomorrow isn’t going to make much difference. I can still walk and run and it’s all going to be fine, I’m sure. If it were bad, I would go and see my lovely doctors who all assure me that the surgery is open for business.
I’ll finish with an old news piece from the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Ford Motor Company has been carrying out research for years now to ensure that its vehicles are as accessible as possible. To give its engineers some insight into how people with limited mobility, or flexibility, interact with their cars, they developed what’s become known as the Third Age Suit. Very much the opposite of one of those robotised exoskeletons that in sci-fi or liberal nightmares turn wimps into supersoldiers or robocops, this suit stiffens and limits mobility in all the limb joints, has a neck brace so that the wearer can’t fully turn their head, a wee spasm generator so they can experience the joy of not being able to fill their coffee pot, glasses that mimic glaucoma or cateracts, and ear muffs to limit hearing. Basically, think Bibendum with a bit of malice aforethought.
All of this is intended to make driving or operating the passenger controls in one of their cars easier for those with movement or mobility issues compared to the general population. It’s one thing to ask users what they need but experiencing problems for yourself can give you better insight into possible solutions.
Of course employing more disabled engineers would also help but that’s a different blog post. So would waiting a few years until things don’t bend, shake, collapse or go blurry all on their own.