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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Scourge of The Scooter

You see the ads for The Scooter Store on TV when you're watching late night or some of the cable channels, where they say that "You may qualify for a Scooter at no cost to you!" (What they don't say is that the government picks up the hefty cost of $10,000 adding to the burden of health care

My, how far disability has come!  Curb cuts, disability access on busses and in most newer buildings... It's a far cry from the older days when  people with disabilities were kept hidden from view or only taken out to doctors appointments or to say in the back yard on a sunny day. We live in a society that is increasingly stratified not only by race and money, but also by the gap between the (in some cases) very abled, (mostly  among the obsessively gym-going among us [the more well to do in most cases]) and the disabled community (those recognized as disabled and needing to have wheelchairs as well as those who because of weight or other physical issues may need then soon).

So you might say that the Scooter — the motorized one-stick-does-all carts — are a good thing. And for certain populations of the disabled, they are. For individuals with MS (I know two) and the extreme Elderly, they are. It's a good time for the mobility of those individuals who are still active in their minds, even if their bodies do not function as well as they would like.

But then there are those who make the transition from walking to the Scooter because it's easier to do. For some of those, active exercise might be of better prescription than taking the (apparently often) step to full dependence on having a chair that they are bound to.

Studies are showing use of the scooter type device increases cardiovascular functioning (when the body is not moving for long periods of time)1 that, once someone has made that choice, the lack of activity is not only not helpful, but leads to a quick decline in physiological functioning leading to an earlier death than might have been.  In these cases, it might have been better for these individuals to remain actively mobile until their functioning declines to the point of no return. Giving up is a sure way to give in.

The more active physically we stay, in other words, the longer our lives and the lesser our declines, leading to better quality of life. Some people manage to stay as active as they can until the day they die. In my church recently, a prime example of this was a "young" woman of 103, who got up and danced an an event. She was a shining example of what it means to grow old gracefully and live longer.

Before I go any further however, I should point out that I am not biased against the disabled in this case. I myself am physically disabled, owing to a work accident that I had in my early thirties. At that time, I was determined that, even with my doctors admonitions  that I was going to be crippled by arthritis in my knees by the time I am the age I am now aside, I was determined to be active and to recover as much as I could.

I wanted to be like that 103 year "old" woman and not be confined to a chair or scooter any sooner than I had to be. So far, I have been able to remain quite abled, doing things like dancing and hiking that I "shouldn't " be 'abled' to do by this time. I want to life my life to the fullest until that possibility is firmly retreating from my grasp.

And that is answer I would like to be giving to all that are able and active: to have the best possibility of quality of life is to remain active. "Do not go gentle into that good night..." but go actively. Don't fall prey to the idea that you don't have ability and mobility until your body tells you "no more." You don't have to be 'disabled' even at 100, unless your physical condition demands it.

Leave the Scooter and the Wheelchair until then.

1("Effect of Motorized Scooters on Quality of Life and Cardiovascular Risk"

p.s. as I finish writing this, I've just found out that the fitness/nutrition guru Jack LaLanne has died. He is said to have exercised right up to his death yesterday... At the age of 96.

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