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Riding With the Radio Off

by Louis on April 17, 2008

People use to think I was fit because I worked physically as a carpenter and not at a desk. That work is not exercise. I was not fit. A bike messenger might get exercise in their work, but if they are much of a cyclist they probably say they never get their heart rate up enough over a prolonged period to consider it much of a work out.

I am all in favor of exercise. I make a point of exercising almost every day. I raise this to compare the thinking to clients who tell me they do not want a stairglide (one of those chairs that goes up the side of the stairs on a rail) or elevator because they get their exercise going up the stairs. I am writing to tell them (and you) that having an elevator does not mean you cannot climb the stairs. Having a radio does not mean you HAVE to listen to it. You can ride with the radio off.

The same thinking occurs with some clients for whom I recommend a ceiling lift. Clients and caregivers say they don’t want a lift because they hope to transfer and walk. Having a ceiling lift does not preclude climbing out of bed, making transfers and walking. It can be used for safe gait training by providing a safety catch in case of fatigue or lost balance, preventing a fall. It is helpful in a rush, when tired or sick. The lift can sit idly when the time and strength for transfers is on hand. You can ride with the radio off.

Should we extend this conversation to grab bars? Does having a grab bar mean you cannot rely on your strength and balance? I don’t think so. You can ride with the radio off.

I have two points in writing. One is that exercise should be a distinct activity, not a sneaky consequence of your daily activities. Wellness, combining strength training and cardio fitness is the behavior most recognized to increase the probability of healthy and successful aging. That means we should do it purposefully.

Second is that planning and preparing does not mean “giving in to the dreaded inevitable”. Universal Design features for our homes reduce the risk of falls and the consequences, assure an easier time recovering from illness or injury and provide better and safer caregiver environments. Universal Design is not for people who need it. It is for everyone who does not want to get caught unawares and unprepared for the unexpected. You can ride with the radio off.

These issues are the same point examined at different scales. The discussion helps us see how smart it is to prepare by installing a grab bar, remodeling or building Universally and purchasing equipment that may sometimes be helpful but isn’t always needed. You can ride with the radio off.

To close, I encourage everyone who is convinced Universal Design will bring on falls and frailty to type the details of their argument in the comments section on this blog. I can’t wait to read them.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark July 9, 2008 at 3:38 am

You’re probably not going to get a lot of people who will argue with you on these points. (In conversation they may resist the logic, but they would know your logic is sound.) I think far too often people allow their thoughts about independence cloud their judgment when it comes to being proactive in matters of safety and health. We see evidence of that every day in people as they drive, eat, exercise and work. It isn’t predominantly the elderly that make those misjudgments, either. The problem lies in it becoming a habit, and dragging that with you into your later years.

So, I echo your point: taking an active approach to being prepared for those times when you have the need is not weakness; it’s smart.


Laurie Orlov September 16, 2008 at 12:45 am

See my blog entry on the difference between compensatory ‘assistive technologies’ and technologies for aging in place.
I think this is not a subtle difference — who wants long-term care insurance if they don’t want to think about long-term care?


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