I never worried about it when I was younger. I fell all the time as a kid. Off my bike. Off my skateboard. Running and jumping.
I’ve got the shiny scars to prove it. On my chin. Forehead. Wrist. Knees. Falling down: bruises, scrapes and sometimes stitches. But that was it. Within days (or less) I was back to my normal fearless self, good as new. Or at least it felt like it.
The bouncing back of youth. I took it for granted. I was only really scared once: I tripped and fell while carrying a half gallon glass bottle of milk…rushing up the front cement stairs at dusk. That fall – onto broken glass – led to an emergency room visit…and thank god you didn’t cut your artery, you could have bled to death…That popped my eyes open on the ER bed. I’ve got 2 scars on my right hand & wrist from those stitches. I was 11.
Decades later, it’s all about so much more. The consequences are now totally different.
The television commercial showcasing “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” is not really funny at all. Perhaps it only amuses a younger audience. I used to laugh too. But now I think, There but for the grace of God…
Both my Oma and Opa fell in their condo – the same day – and couldn’t get up; eventually crawling to reach a phone. Back before cell phones. They were forced to call my mother – closest geographically and their only child – effectively ending a 5 year simmering I’m-not-talking-to-them feud. Not quite worth the silver lining. They went from hospital to nursing home.
Within the next 10 years, my mother slipped and fell down the garage stairs, breaking her hip; triggering a decline in her health and functioning. My mother-in-law fell in the nursing home she was living in; broke her hip and then decided never to walk again. My father slipped and fell down an icy driveway, shattering his hand in multiple places. Their stories are not unique.
Now here I am in my “golden years” living in an “over-55” condo development. All the units are one level “garden style” type. We moved here for many reasons, but the biggest reason we chose this particular living arrangement? To reduce the risk of falling. No stairs to climb in our unit.
No guarantees though – stairs or no stairs. One of our new neighbors recently fell in the bathroom and will be immobile for many months. One fall and your life takes a different path. One you wouldn’t have chosen voluntarily. A few stitches or ice packs is not going to fix you anymore.
Of course not everyone “of a certain age” carries the same risk (and catastrophic falls can happen at any age); but it increases as time goes on. Falling can mean the end of having control over where you go, how you get there, what you do. Your world gets smaller and smaller. And often more painful.
But I wonder if worrying about it and being careful shrink your world as well? Where’s the fine line between sensible precautions and obsessive worry? There has to be a balance.
Recent condo association board meetings have had agendas full of “how to decrease liability.” Irate owners shouting We need speed bumps because people drive too fast. Someone will get hit, fall down and we’ll be liable. Others: Get rid of the speed bumps because people are tripping over them and falling and we’ll get sued. Or fix the sidewalk before someone falls…and we’ll get sued.
They are afraid. And not just about lawsuits. I’m convinced it’s not all anger…really. It’s fear. It’s about what can happen when you fall. It’s fear masquerading as anger – on both sides.
In the backs of our minds, it’s there. I know I can’t be the only one, as I am on the younger side of the demographic here.
One fall and twist of the hip.