You hear it all the time: “So and so fell and broke a hip.” “Joe stepped off a curb and broke his foot.” Lots of stories of older folks having issues with balance and breaking stuff. And I must admit, I’ve often wondered how that can happen.
As a youngster I had pretty good balance. I was a decent roller skater and a pretty salty water skier. We kids played lots of games that required balance and coordination and I always felt pretty comfortable doing crazy stuff. But thinking back, maybe I was only average.
As a child I had my share of broken bones and when I look back it was usually due to a fall. My first broken arm came when I fell from a rope “Tarzan” swing to the ground. A few years later I ran into Bruce Buchanan playing baseball in the back yard, fell down and got up with a broken thumb. Maybe I wasn’t as agile and well balanced as I thought.
I heard the stories of the old folks breaking stuff and never gave it another thought. That will never happen to me, right? But not so fast. Over the past few years I’ve noticed myself stumbling a little more. On more than one occasion when squatting to get a better angle for a photograph I would find myself landing on my butt and in a couple instances rolling onto my back or side, unable to stop my downward momentum.
Then came the out and out falls. Walking on a rain slick sidewalk in Richmond, VA I slipped and the next thing I knew I was doing the splits and ending up on my back. I ended up with a strained quadriceps muscle, what we used to call a charley horse, that lasted almost 3 months before I could walk pain free. A few years ago I was hiking to False Kiva in Canyonlands National Park when I slipped on a sand covered rock and again did the splits. That one scared me. Maybe I imagined it but it was as if I could feel the strain on my tibia and to this day I don’t know how I avoided ending up with a broken leg.
I started hearing stories from friends in my age group. My buddy Tim told me of a spill he took in a hotel bathtub. I’ve nearly done that several times myself. What we came up with is 2 things: First, we’re not as spry as we once were. Our balance is quickly deserting us. Second, we think it’s not so much that we’re clumsy, but rather that our muscle tone has deserted us and where before we could use some core strength to avoid falling, our cores aren’t that strong in our mid 60s. Whatever the reason, we have acknowledged that nobody should ever scoff at a story of an older person falling and breaking something because we’re almost there.
And that brings us to the image at the top of this blog. That’s my knee. Complete with a scrape that’s about 2 inches in diameter. I was leaving a meeting in downtown Denver on Tuesday, moved to the outer edge of a sidewalk to avoid a group of smokers, stepped on the edge of a planter, and guess what hit the sidewalk first….I was able to roll onto my backpack and save myself from a face plant but my left knee hit the sidewalk. Ruined a good pair of slacks. Made me look like a fool in front of about 50 people. Terribly embarrassing…and dammit, it hurts. Besides the scuffed up knee. I now have a sore shoulder and back. Face it, I’m not as spry as I used to be.
Come on Neosporin, do your thing. And don’t make fun of old people falling down. We all get there one day.