My 85 year old fashionable aunt and I have a wonderful relationship. She takes pride in her appearance and dresses well. Unfortunately, her balance is not good and she refuses to use a cane. Is there a way to influence her to use something that seems so simple to me, like the cane? I know it would make her life more secure and allow me to rest more easily. Thanks a lot. SL
We know that 16.4% of the elderly use a cane. What we don’t know is how many have to use one and don’t. One of the obstacles is the fear of looking old, which our youth-obsessed society generally does not appreciate. This is slowly changing with the use of older models, older men and women featured in commercials, and seeing more older actors and actresses in movies.
The industry has taken the opportunity to produce rods that feature design, shape and materials. Many ignore it, but there is examples of those with aesthetic appeal, especially for women. There is the golden cane with a rhinestone necklace; another with a mosaic stained glass pattern and a black cane with the imprint of a magnificent hummingbird. Then there is a cane with the handle engraved in silver and the one that has your initials on it. Examples of canes marketed to men include one with a beech wood handle, another made of espresso ash, and another with a brass eagle handle.
I had a friend whose wardrobe included walking sticks. When she wore a purple outfit, she used the purple flower cane. For her green outfit, it was the one with the green abstract design. She has made a fashion statement with each of her outings. Instead of someone saying or thinking about their need to use an assistive device, they complimented her on her total outfit and added: You look stunning. Where did you find this cane?
When we think of fashion, we don’t necessarily think of older women. This was not the case with Ari Seth Cohen who published a book about fashionable women 60 and over called Advanced Style (PowerHouse Books, 2011). They were mostly Manhattan women enjoying their later years with grace and panache, marching to the beat of their own drummer. Their images and words of wisdom are a source of inspiration for all ages.
Yet wisdom and inspiration are not enough. We need to develop attractive devices and related products. For example, here’s an idea for overcoming some of the resistance to hearing aids: What if we had nice boxes to store them when not in use and big enough to hold the charger?
Let us use the model of snuffboxes, which date from the 1400s. At the end of the 17th centurye century, ornate boxes were produced to keep snuff dry. They were made of a variety of materials, including gold, silver, tortoiseshell or horn. They were also made of porcelain with hand painted miniature landscapes as well as cameos of their owners. Some have been engraved; others enamelled.
We might have a variety of special hearing aid boxes on our coffee table that could become the object of conversation and curiosity. Although this is an extreme assumption, we have the creativity and tools to make assistive devices and related products fashionable rather than clinical.
Going back to the conversation with your aunt, tell her about innovative rods to buy. Note that their proper use is not easy. Consider seeing a physical therapist to find out how your aunt can safely use a cane to get the most out of it.
Thank you SL for your question. Your good relationship with your fashionable aunt is a plus and probably the basis of a meaningful dialogue. Best wishes for a productive conversation. Most of all, be careful and kind to yourself and others.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on aging, employment and new retirement issues with academic, corporate and non-profit background. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at [email protected]. Visit Helen on HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulagingCommunity
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