Losing your mobility can feel like a little death. Whether it’s sudden or gradual, the realization that you cannot do something you used to do easily, even unconsciously, isn’t just a physical sensation, it brings real grief. Some say it propels us through the stages of loss described by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her pioneering study “On Death and Dying”: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Keep an eye on that last one…it’s the payoff for those of us determined to keep moving.
I don’t for a moment equate the seriousness of losing a loved one or facing a terminal illness with loss of mobility. But the emotions resonate. I wallowed in every one.
My first Plan A was actually a D: Denial. When my orthopedist ruled out surgery and suggested a walker, I flatly refused. I didn’t need a walker; I didn’t want a walker, I couldn’t see myself as a person with a walker. There had to be a way around this, and I was going to find it!
Let’s be honest, when people see you pushing a classic metal walker with tennis balls, or even the standard rollator with its black seat and wire basket, their first reaction is to look away, either in embarrassment or courtesy. Then, if they are nice, and most people are, they will offer to help—open a door, lift the walker out of the car or over a curb, but the look in their eye is pity and when settled with a pleasant word, they beat a hasty retreat. Why? Because however well-meaning, it’s an uncomfortable encounter: a reminder of looming old age or infirmity, and with it, loss of freedom. How do I know? Because that’s how I saw it before I became part of it. I saw a walker as defeating the norm. What was meant to keep us engaged seemed instead to act as a barrier between today and yesterday, young and old, fast and slow, moving forward vs. moving back.
As we age, we learn to let go—of options, beauty, dexterity, agility. But we don’t let go of our need to be a part of things, to be social and useful, seen and heard. We still relish style, appreciate new ideas, yearn for adventure, pursue interests and value self-reliance. We have dreams along with memories. Hence the bucket list.
Still, appearances matter, stereotypes take hold, and they color our perspective. I knew I needed help, yet I didn’t want to be seen as old or limited — by myself or anyone else. I wanted my outside to reflect my inside, and at that moment, a new Plan A took form: assess, accept, accommodate.
My goal: alleviate pain, walk upright, walk longer, walk farther and look good while doing it.
I started slowly. My first walking aid was a gnarled walking stick ala Swiss mountaineer. Hand-carved by a bearded Sierra Club pal it was five feet high and was supportive but heavy, awkward and exhausting. A cane made me lean uncomfortably to one side; next, an enormous and expensive back brace with metal bars and crisscross straps worthy of the Inquisition. This shifted pain rather than alleviating it. Finally, I settled on a pair of adjustable hiking poles, using one pole for indoors and short hops, and the pair for navigating parking lots, department stores and sightseeing. They worked well enough, though I never quite mastered a smooth stride and needed a backpack to carry belongings. But still, my posture deteriorated further. I spent a lot of time draped over supermarket carts with only two items inside. Finally, I succumbed to the inevitable and got a standard rollator. Even at its tallest height, I couldn’t stand up straight. The fixed seat kept me hunched over, my arms ached and my back pain increased. It was awkward to load in-and-out of the car, and after eight weeks, I stashed the walker and went back to the hiking sticks. These aids may work well, or well enough, for some people. But for me, the outlook was discouraging.
Around this time a friend invited me to a mobility expo. Though I expected to find little of interest, the offer of a great dinner made it an offer I couldn’t refuse. While he eyed a $60,000 fully-equipped handicapped accessible SUV I drifted from booth to booth, hiking poles in hand, checking out mobility scooters, TENS units, and the marijuana initiative booth. As I rounded a corner I was stopped dead in my tracks.
WOW! I said, louder than intended, what is THAT? And there I met Jeremy Knopow, co-founder of Motivo, Inc.
“THAT” was the Motivo Tour, a groundbreaking new walker of stunning design and life-changing technology. I admit it. Man or machine, nothing grabs the eye like a good looker —and this baby was gorgeous! My first reaction was attraction. It was sleek, modern, shiny, a deep rich red with curves and sophistication. Love at first sight. More than a pretty face, this walker was life-changing. Designed and engineered so users stand inside, stand upright and experience unparalleled stability.
Without a hitch I was standing up straight, walking more easily and painlessly than I had for years. After 20 minutes of walking around the massive convention hall, I knew I had found my soulmate.
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