Yes, today I have reached my 69th birthday. Birthdays are strange events for me. I have vague memories of my 6th birthday, but beyond that, they are just a blur. While I don’t remember the details, my 15th birthday was a major one, since then I was able to terrorize the streets in my grandmother’s well-worn 1948 Plymouth sedan. My 18th meant buying beer was legal, but the law had not stood in my way of drinking as much as and often as possible in the previous years. I don’t remember the details, but sometime in my 14th year I embarked on my career as an alcoholic. It would take me 30 years to decide that drinking did not solve any of my problems, and usually made things worse.
Now as I look back at my life it would be easy to focus on the negative things, but, alas, that has done me little good. Not that I have a Pollyannaesque attitude today, but I try to see every day as an opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of life. Mind you, I am not very good at seeing the bright side of things, since my official curmudgeon’s license provides the opportunity for me to comment as the stupid, nonsensical things that go on around me. And believe me, there are plenty.
Today I was sitting outside having a cup of coffee and noticed the parade of seniors up and down the sidewalk in front of my apartment in motorized wheelchairs. A sense of gratitude came over as I mulled over what it must be like to have to rely on a motorized chair to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and all those little errands to which we pay scant attention. I live near a senior citizens’ home and witness the daily march up and down my street of many of the residents. It is amazing that these motorized lounge chairs can zip up and down the sidewalk at a pace that would yield a 50 minute time for a 10K road race.
For many of my neighbors I am sure that these electric transportation devices are a life saver, and allow people to continue their lives free from a reliance on others. It occurs to me that it is likely that Medicare and Medicaid provide these wheelchairs or scooters to many local seniors. I wonder if, in some cases, that the government is actually doing a disservice to those people by providing them with these devices? Might it not be more cost effective and healthful to provide considerably more physical therapy for the mobility challenged and not relegate them to reliance on a device that can malfunction, is difficult to maintain, and may not be so user friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that the devices by taken away from their current users, but for future generations of seniors, more attention to preventing the conditions that rendered people to limited mobility might be prudent.
Of course, preventative health care is not the American way. Just think how many businesses would be affected if the need for such devices were significantly reduced? No politician in their right mind would advocate extensive, readily available, preventative healthcare measures that might reduce the profit margins for the medical equipment industry. Even though people would be better served by helping them remain ambulatory for as long as possible, just think of the profits for those companies that prey on seniors and those with mobility issues. It is only good business to have as many people as possible rely on motorized devices, rather than their own two feet.
On the other hand, if I find myself unable to ambulate on my own, I am sure that will relish my own “Afikim Breeze S 4-Wheel Scooter” with LCD display, adjustable tiller, adjustable orthopedic seat, heavy duty battery, and lockable storage for the paltry sum of $6,750. Now that is a real American dream for the mobility impaired, as well as those simply too lazy to get off their fat asses. Ain’t America great!