Friday, May 9, 2014

The Walker Set

     It has become a rite of passage for those reaching the age of 65 in this country to file for Social Security benefits, apply for a frequent filler card at their local pharmacy, take full advantage of senior citizen discounts even on items they do not need or want, and accessorize their life with a walker. Because now that you are retired, not only should you not have to work, but you should not have to expend your valuable energy keeping your balance so you do not fall down. That energy is better spent watching re-runs of Bonanza.
     The fortunate seniors today have more choices in wheeled crutches than their predecessors, who only had one choice. Now in addition to the basic four wheel model, there is the tri-walker that has three wheels and folds conveniently to fit in the back seat of your Smart car or SUV. There are also models that double as a chair, so today's prepared senior can plop down whenever they are feeling a little puckish, even in the doorway of public buildings.
     The seniors of yesteryear, like one of my grandfathers, only had the choice of a cane when they reached the wobbly stage of life. Of course my grandfather got the most out of his cane by making it double as a rod which he did not spare, thus not even coming close to spoiling his grandchildren. It would be difficult for a feisty grandparent to break up a grandchild's temper tantrum using a walker.
     Do not mistake my premise, the walker is a great medical device for those who need them. But the majority of seniors I see rushing pass me at 6-8 miles an hour pushing a walker, can hardly be considered disabled enough to need the assistance of a wheeled contraption. Besides, the constant bending over a walker while pushing it can cause neck and spine troubles, which are much worse than a possible fall.
     The fear of living life without a constant security blanket has created a growing population that focuses, and even obsesses, on its weakness, even when that weakness is mostly perceived. What we have done to our seniors, making them dependent on medical devices like walkers that they do not need, is a societal corollary to increasing peanut allegories in children by keeping them away from that legume. An entire society has had to change its nut-eating habits because fewer than a dozen persons die each year from a reaction to peanuts. Children are now trained by smothering parents to break out into a cold sweat whenever they are within 20 feet of a peanut.
     The walker set is growing, and as the selfish and needy baby boomers age, the dependence on these wheeled security blankets is only going to increase exponentially. Which is good news for the walker manufacturers, but bad news for the seniors they addict. In the future, the walker and the senior will fuse into one being, like some fantastic science fiction creature. Only instead of taking over the world, these aliens will hold up grocery store lines counting out 98 cents in pennies instead of breaking a dollar, drive fifteen miles an hour under the speed limit, and frighten their grandchildren almost to death by giving them peanuts in their Easter baskets.

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