The Psychology of Walking Sticks

I have been obliged to use various walking aids over my life, and as I had polio at the age of 10 years and am now 73 I have had experiences with many different kinds of ‘walking aids’! I have always been surprised at the mixed reactions to these functional pieces of necessary equipment.

Years ago I tore the ligaments in my ‘good leg’ I found the use of the old fashioned cane, upturned ‘U’ handled stick helpful but hated the ‘grandma’ image it represented.

Later the NHS produced a much lighter weight aluminium stick which was worse.  I felt immediately placed amongst the old and infirm – rather like that clever but cruel road sign depicting two ancients bent over walking sticks, warning motorists ‘Beware elderly people crossing.’

Mentally, despite now being a pensioner I was really not ready for that image and hated the piteous looks from passers-by; or by the actions of those who hitherto would have pushed past me in the street, now smilingly indulgently stepped aside, maybe that was better than nothing.

People were giving way to me in shops, allowing me to jump queues, and offering me a seat when normally it would have been any man for himself.

Immediately after surgery to help repair my knee, the Hospital’s compulsory use of the zimmer frame toppled any notion I had of throwing off the old and decrepit image.

This dreadful object propelled me to and from my bed to the bathroom, plunging me into deeper despair as I clattered along the hard floor and shuffled awkwardly through narrow doorways –at one time I got stuck in the toilet.!!

On leaving Hospital I received the ‘would she like to sit by the window’ treatment in a roadside café, and other comments along the way as I hobbled about on walking sticks.

“Where would she like to sit” as the waitress gave eye contact to the family member who accompanied me” and
“Let me know when she is ready to order” and “I have sat her near the disabled loo”!  Ok!

Back home I graduated from two sticks to one but then there was a set back in my damaged knee and elbow crutches were handed to me.

Everything changes you see with elbow crutches and I felt quite different using these contraptions, and got quite adept at manouvering myself around difficult corners, swinging along the pavements at quite a good speed.

You see if you are on crutches you are on crutches, you’re not necessarily infirm.  You could be recovering from a sports injury, a replacement knee, –  not the victim of a life long disability.  People were really different , they asked me to my face “How are you getting on”  “Would you like to sit by the window”, they really spoke to me.

However my life has changed again, and I have now progressed, or maybe I should say regressed and it is all about a life on wheels, but at least you can get yourself to where ever you need to go, and get about at quite a speed, provided there are no steps around, electric wheelchairs do not like climbing stairs, and oh be very careful when confronting display stands in Shops.

A friend of mine when on her mobility scooter in a Supermarket rode into a huge stack of tins of chocolates which were ‘on special offer’ you can imagine the embarrassment of that.   To date I have not experienced any episodes like that, but do be careful not to drive into people’s legs when at the check-outs.