THE SENIOR’S FRIEND, THE ARM CANE
By: William Chase
One of the biggest mistakes people make as they grow older is to resist using a cane — resist, that is, beyond the point where they really need one. The result, alas, is vast numbers of broken bones, doctor bills, and hospital costs when all could have been avoided with the use of an arm cane.
Another big mistake they make — not to say the dumbest — is to use the wrong kind of cane, namely the kind used by Churchill. That’s the cane you can hook over your arm or casually swing as you walk down the street. Winston may have loved it — but the truth is, this type of cane offers very little real support. Why? Because it wobbles — and so do you when you walk with it.
For real security, the only kind of cane to have is the one that grips the lower arm. It’s called an arm cane, and the way it holds the arm will steady and support you like nothing else. Look closely at anyone using an ordinary cane and you will often find them extending thumb and forefinger down the side of the cane. They do this unconsciously to control lateral movement. Which is what the arm cane does for you automatically: it controls lateral movement.
You’re probably wondering how I know all this. (I do not sell canes, nor do any of my relatives). I know because I’m well into my eighties and a cane user for years. That said, beware of “experts” — like one I read recently who recommends that you “hold the cane with the opposite hand of the side that needs extra support.” And: “When descending stairs, step first with the bad foot and follow with the cane and good foot.”
Both of these rules are dead wrong. As your natural instinct will tell you, hold your cane on the side that needs support, and when navigating stairs, up or down, always put the good foot first. The “expert’s” way is not only wrong, it is dangerous. And remember above all: never, ever try to use a staircase where there is no handrail — it’s an invitation to disaster, especially if you try to use it going down!
Actually, there‘s no reason why cane walking should be put off. Getting an early start, in fact, has several advantages. First, walk with a cane and you get top priority on the street — people make way for you. (Except for kids on skateboards; but just come to dead stop and they’ll zoom right around you.) Second, drop something while cane-walking and someone will surely pick it up for you. (Which is nice, since you probably can’t pick it up yourself, not without a great deal of effort. Think plastic credit cards. Or a bunch of coins.) Third, walk with a cane and rarely do you have to be someplace on time — lunch, party, class reunion, bar mitzvah, wherever People understand why you’re likely to be a little late, hobbling along as you do.
A word about accessories. Among the many on the market there is one that would not be without. It’s a rubber, clip-on cane holder, especially useful in restaurants. Be sure to get the large size: the small ones don’t work nearly as well.
Next, the Big Question for cane users. Should you walk with two canes or just one; would you be more secure with two? I’m sure there are some people who truly need two. But I’m equally sure that a lot of two-cane users would be better off getting a walker, which is a whole other subject, for another time. Meanwhile, as I see it, two canes are usually a bad idea, as they very likely to give a false sense of security. Plus, they can be complicated to deal with in places like restaurants and stores. Much better to use just one — that great gift to the human race, the arm cane.