The man in the park looked wishfully at his surroundings. It had just rained and the trees were not only shedding the last of the leaves but also heavy drops of water. The creek was running fast, yet the ducks had no trouble paddling upstream. No doubt the first of the eggs had been laid. The drakes were on guard, and only the reeds knew where they were hidden.
I recognized the man and his grey little dog. Both are regular walkers. He might know me too but I am unsure. Perhaps he remembers a few years ago when he had slipped in the wet grass, and was struggling to get upright again? There isn’t a lot of dignity in having reached a stage in getting older, when being upright is starting to fail. Perhaps that’s why he might prefer to remain anonymous to his sole witness. The ageing gracefully extracts a price when prostrate on wet grass with curious ducks looking on.
As I said earlier, I had noticed him before on my own walks. He walked with some difficulty. He took little steps. He once stopped and told me he walks each day. ‘I still walk for miles,’ he added proudly. People on the whole still get around, but mainly by cars. Walking is now seems the sole privilege of the old. The young drive or are being driven.
I noticed him lying on the wet sloping grass. He must have slipped and had let go of his walking stick and dog. He had trouble getting up. I asked if I could help. He did not say anything but I got him upright anyway and handed him his walking stick, and his dog with a lead. The whole procedure was then keenly watched by some ducks, and Milo our own dog. The ducks are fed regularly by other walkers, mainly mothers and young kids. The ducks must have thought it was taking some time for the old man to give them the food.
I haven’t reached the age yet of unable to get up from the prone position. But, it is strange how of late I do study old people and their ways of getting about. I keenly observe their gait. Are they using aids? Do their partners nudge them onwards, prop them up a bit, are they a bit wobbly? Do they look vague? Shops are more and more selling equipment for the elderly.
Aldi is at the very cutting-edge of elderly care. They sell everything from mobility scooters, to hydraulic toilet-seat lifters, Chrome bathroom grip holders, tri-pod walking aids, incontinence pads for the bladder-intestinal-harried sufferer. People are not shy. I noticed an elderly gentleman throwing his packet of incontinence pads, with cheerful abandonment, on the conveyer belt. I am as yet not that brave nor incontinent. But, it will happen,… eventually.
On my last medical visit, I was given a thorough check-out. I did not ask for it. It is now a Government initiative to get the old on-board. ‘You don’t suffer Alzheimer at all,’ the old doctor informed me. This was based on my ability to follow an order and fold a sheet of paper in half and put it on the floor in front of my feet. I also remembered three words; ‘chair, sea, and dog,’ after a delay of more than 3 minutes.