WHAT KIND OF TICKING time-bomb have we set for the baby boom generation? That’s what I was thinking over and over again after my knee surgery. The toughest part of my recent ACL/meniscus surgery was not the procedure and the aftermath. I was fortunate to have terrific care. (Thank you Dr. Arnold Peterson, Providence/Sacred Heart, Parkside PT and my wife, mom and kids.) It wasn’t the pain, although that was not fun. Or the rehab. Or the constipation. Or the sleeping challenges. Or being bed-ridden for days (finished Arkham City on the Xbox).
No, the toughest part about knee surgery is getting around. For at least a month after surgery I can’t drive, walk, or ride a bike. I am either in a wheelchair, with crutches, or limited walking in a leg brace. I cannot go anywhere or do anything without friends, family, or co-workers to drive me everywhere. Oh, sweet mobility, how I have taken you for granted. It’s like fast-forwarding to my twilight years when aging, not surgery, may prevent me from getting around on my own.
I did the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in a wheelchair because I was way too weak to do it on crutches. Both my kids were fighting over who got to push me—I only hope they still fight over this in forty years. It’s really impossible to understand how challenging streets and sidewalks can be for wheelchair users unless you get in one for a while. My arms got tired quick. Some obstacles weren’t worth the effort.
It’s only slightly better on crutches. Your mobility is a bit better, but they take a heck of a lot out of you on long distances. And if you can’t drive to get around it creates a depressing amount of dependency on others.
Our largest generation, the baby boomers, are now entering retirement. Each year will take more of them closer to being dependant on others for transportation. Some may end up driving long after they are a danger to themselves and others. After knee surgery the mobility challenges of aging are no longer theoretical to me. If we don’t have walkable, bikeable, transit oriented communities our seniors are doomed to isolation.
Being bed-ridden and home-bound in small doses is tolerable, but there aren’t enough Xbox games out there to do it for very long. See you back in the saddle soon.