What High Heels and a Slippery Floor Taught Me About Aging

Too many falls in two months made me rethink my footwear and my attitude

(This article appeared previously on Huff/Post50.)

It’s time to put away my high heels for good.

For my own good, that is.

Only really old people fall down, or that’s what I thought until recently. Remember that commercial where the old woman is lying on the floor and yells “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”? I thought it was only old people who fell — randomly, and for apparently no reason.

A man was walking towards me as my ankle twisted and I wound up in a heap on the marble floor in the hallway leading to the casino.

I’m not an old woman. But how do I explain the events of the past few months?

Swollen Ankle, Bruised Ego

There was the injury when I sort of tumbled off the curb (in my walking shoes) and my ankle swelled up to the size of a grapefruit, badly sprained but not broken. That was a painful and miserable two weeks of my life.

There was the time when I tripped and fell flat on my face (sort of) while I was out walking — you know, getting exercise to stay healthy — that fortunately only resulted in scraped hands and a wounded ego. No one saw me (that I know of), so my embarrassment was limited to the curious look my dog gave me.

There was the awkward fall just a few weeks ago as I hurried through the lobby of a Las Vegas hotel in really cute platform sandals.

A man was walking towards me as my ankle twisted and I wound up in a heap on the marble floor in the hallway leading to the casino. He was probably around my age. He didn’t offer to help me up.

“Are you OK?” he said.

“Yes, I’m fine,” I lied, getting my humiliated self up off the floor, feeling like a baby elephant or a newborn puppy — though not nearly as cute.

“Good. You scared the shit out of me,” he replied.

So much for the kindness of strangers. I imagine if I were 30 years younger he would have run right over to lend me a hand.

Symptoms and Sympathy

When I fell in Las Vegas, my ankle twisted in, instead of out, and I was hobbling around for the next five days while I hosted a conference. Fortunately the conference was for middle-aged women, so there was much sympathy and not a snicker (that I heard) at the sight of my bandage-wrapped foot encased in a baby blue fuzzy sock.

Falling can be a sign of serious illness, especially in people my age. It can be a symptom of things like Parkinson’s disease, a brain tumor, multiple sclerosis or something called drop attack (thank you Google). In my case, though, the only thing falling is a symptom of is clumsiness … and aging. I have always been clumsy, but I have never fallen so frequently in such a brief period of time.

I’m not the only person having trouble staying upright or avoiding injuries. It seems to be happening to more and more of my friends. It may be that we aren’t paying close enough attention to what we’re doing when we’re walking, but more likely it’s simply a result of our bodies being less robust and more vulnerable to weaknesses. Ankles, wrists, backs, necks … everything seems to be changing a little bit at a time. I am now well-aware of the dangers of falling as I get older.

From Not Ready to Realization

Avoiding falls is one of my newest and most important goals in life.

Each time something happens to me that reminds me that I’m heading into the third act of my life, I am startled and a bit annoyed. It’s not that I didn’t know these things would happen — the memory lapses, the slight hair loss, tiring more quickly, sleeping less soundly — I just thought they would happen, you know, later.

I guess later is here.

I have a fairly good attitude about aging, I just don’t like the reminders that it’s happening to me right this minute.

I went to the doctor to get an x-ray of my twisted foot after I got home from Las Vegas, and though my ankle was fine, it seems my baby toe is broken. I hadn’t even noticed. I don’t really care.

I won’t miss the high heels. They were usually uncomfortable, though they looked good. But I’m willing to give up an elongated leg for peace of mind.

With age comes wisdom.

By Sharon Greenthal
Sharon Greenthal is a blogger at Empty House, Full Mind and the Adult Parenting Expert at About.com. A former stay-at-home mom, she is now an empty-nester and lives in Long Beach, Calif., with her husband.
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