Thursday, 12 March 2009

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

As a kid I used to have a fear of dying. I am not sure if this was rooted in the concept of Hell or simply a dread of dying 'before my time'. The latter is nicely parallelled by a fear of living forever. The notion of being the last of one's peers seems rather frightening - even though time has brought me new friends and relations.

Age has mellowed me and an innings of 'three score and ten' seems fitting. But there's the rub. Seventy is not a badge to collect nor a box to tick. Getting to 70, 80 90 or 100 is more than feasible with modern medicine but what is important to me HOW I get there!

This is something that DOES still trouble me. I don't fear getting old, I fear 'losing it' and being forced to live beyond my health. This is what drives me even today - and ensures that idleness nor chronic exercise hasten my demise.

A few years ago my grandfather was sent to a home. This place was pretty grim and like many care homes, despite whatever the marketing blurb says, had the feeling of a departure lounge for 'Air-Reaper'.

I knew that my grandfather was due for 'check out' and with each weekend I went to see him, the number of empty chairs was testament to turnover of this place. Sure they had entertainment (books, TV, radio etc...), and home cooked food but there was little 'movement' amongst the residents unless it involved a box that was 6ft by 3ft.

One visit in particular stuck in my mind. I was in the lounge and a nurse burst in to the room asking for my help lifting one of the residents who had fallen over. I was lead to a bedroom where 'Tom' was sitting on the ground looking up at me. His eyes were wide with fear.

I smiled to ease him but he was terrified. My hands reached for his torso but found lots of clothes and then, finally some bones. It kind of felt like picking up an old deckchair - all canvas and frame. I lifted him up with ease and although his face relaxed a bit, I could see the helplessness in his eyes. I can still picture him today. This is someone I never knew, met once and will never see again - but he has had a massive impact on my life....

I knew then that I NEVER wanted to get to that stage of ill health and general helplessness. Sure the pills and the care kept him alive (the table next to his bed was crammed with medicine), but he struck me as someone too weak to protest and fight the torment that his life had become. He was trapped alive.

On reflection how could Tom or anyone in that home ever hope to become anything other than helpless? The residents were seldom encouraged to go outdoors or move about. Their meals were brought to them. The TV was controlled by remote. Residents where wheeled or zimmered from A to B. More importantly in Tom's position, the simple skill of getting up off the ground - that first complex balancing skill we learn as an infant, had become lost. The flexibility left him and the muscles in his legs and arms had atrophied. The strength he worked upon in that first year of life had now deserted him.

Since that time I have regularly sat on the floor at home rather than sitting on a chair. I usually sit cross legged but will lean back against the furniture which seems to have developed pelvic mobility. Standing up demands a pressing action in the arms and can also be an excuse for a pistol.

My new found perspective on life is good in many ways. Seated, I am at head height with Flash standing, and both she and Captain Kid like to sit in the 'crook' of my crossed legs to watch TV or read a book.

Sitting on the floor (and for that matter squatting down), feels comfortable surprisingly quickly. It works your body through a significant range of motion. It is a credible test of a child's development so why not that of a pensioner's demise?

For me this is a personal indicator of when I need to make one last fight. This then is my benchmark and one skill that I work on EVERY day.