By Dick Weinman, AARP Volunteer and ALF Guru
It’s something out of West Side Story, a street fight between rival factions – not the Bloods and Crips, but mobility machines – low-tech technology. It’s the “put it wherever” array of walkers jumbled in a heap at the entrance to the Dining Room at my ALF (Assisted Living Facility).
At meal time, we ALF residents walk down the steps or take the elevator from the upper floor to the main floor. From the south. From the north. All converge on the Dining Room in the center of the facility. Many plop down walkers.
Don’t try to maneuver through them – you’ll wind up falling. Tough luck if you’re in a wheelchair – unless it’s motorized and you can plough right through them.
Residents race for their seats at the dining table. (Well, not really. That’s a bit over dramatized, imaginative non-fiction.) Walker users can’t speed walk; they build the heap at the entrance door; then they duck-paddle fast.
Those of us in wheelchairs have it easy: we guide our personal seats to a table. Some of us are still homo erectus and speed walk ; some of us lean on a cane; but most of the residents have gotten to the Dining Room slouched over walkers – except the few smart folks who’ve been told to raise their shoulders, straighten their spines, and keep their heads up - the proper way to walk.
But, that scenario is history: peace has been made in the hood. Law and Order prevails – a little shakily, perhaps, but those herds of walkers have been lassoed into the Walker Corral (more dramatized non-fiction), a straight line of silver metal, perambulators folded together to form a military column – a perfect disambiguation. . . never mind that the residents who need walkers to walk have to walk there to get their walkers. Another example of the provider-centered philosophy trumping the person-centered: No one asked the residents how we might solve the problem
Despite the flaws, the travel-to-eat experience has become less wild-westish and more citified. Matt Dillon’s days are over. It’s Law and Order. Time for Lennie Briscoe.
The only downside for the resident is recognizing one’s own walker out of the many look-a-likes lined up in a row. We should try differently colored balloons.