The oft-cited sentiment regarding aging states that getting old is not for sissies. Let’s add another: Inside every old person is a young one trying to figure out what the hell happened.
For wheelers, aging is something of a juggling act, attempting to maintain and balance tolerable levels of health and function, along with a tolerable quality of life.
The health challenges — the not-for-sissies aspect — often mirror the challenges of the nondisabled, complemented by the Litany of Dangers taught in rehab — something akin to a Letterman-like Top 10 List of Maladies that plague those of the sitting life:
• more significant and pronounced loss of function
• slowing of gastrointestinal function
• already compromised lung and cardiovascular function
• elevated incidence of obesity
• low HDL (good cholesterol)
• elevated insulin resistance
• increased risk of skin ulcers and infections
• urinary tract infections
• bowel problems
An informal survey of friends of a certain age raised many of these issues as well as additional ones, most prominent among them, shoulder problems and pain. Specifically rotator cuff surgery seems rather popular among the 40-year-plus post-injury set. Anne Herman, a San Diego quad and three-time Paralympic swimmer, had her procedure done several years ago. Initially she found the necessary attendant care both troubling and intrusive. Now, she rather welcomes the help, especially because it’s allowed her to continue swimming.