One symptom of aging is a gradual and inevitable loss of calcium in your bones. The older you get, the more likely you are to suffer from weak muscles, stiff joints, and...
As we get older, many things can happen to us. For some, it's arthritis, and for others… like me… it is from a serious horse riding fall. When that happens, it can feel like we are doomed to stay at home for the rest of our lives; venturing out only when necessary.
Fortunately, things have changed a lot since I was a youngster. Now we have electric carts in many places. Some are free to use and others, such as those at theme parks, have to be rented. This can mean the difference between watching your grandchild's first roller coaster ride and just sitting at home hoping for pictures.
Here are a few of the things that we can do with our wheelchairs that weren't always available in the past:
Wheelchair-friendly Activities Outside the Home
In the last three months, I have been to four theme parks. I rented electric carts at three of them and thoroughly wished I had for the fourth. I couldn't ride all of the rides I wanted to go on, but I did get to go on some of them. The ones I didn't get to ride were down at the time. Whether you enjoy the rides or not, there are so many fun things to do at theme parks. Electric carts have made it possible for me to explore the whole park and enjoy the day with my family.
Going to the beach is something that many in wheelchairs don't think they can do. However, there are two good reasons to put the beach back on your to-do list. First, many public beaches have wheelchair access, which means a solid path rather than sand. The other is the invention of wheelchairs specific for outdoor activities. So if you want to feel the sand between your toes again, you can.
In our area, the zoos tend to be on mountainsides. This makes walking around to see the animals difficult from the get-go. However, a rented electric cart made all the difference. It's fun to see how excited the grandkids got when they saw some of the animals. It was also fun to see them get their faces painted to look like some of the animals.
It never occurred to me that those who require wheelchairs could do some sports. Bowling was one of them. However, there are ways for wheelchair users to bowl and even official rules for doing so. You don't require any special facilities, either. You can bowl anywhere as long as you have the right equipment.
I knew about wheelchair basketball when I was in middle school. We even got to watch a game, and it was fascinating. Now there is wheelchair football. There are rules for both manual chairs and power chairs, which weren't available when I was that age.
It is hard to imagine wheelchair golf, but the sport is available. There are even special rules on the courses, both for wheelchair users and those who need canes or crutches. Some of the changes were made because it would be difficult to use a chair in some parts of the golf course.
I may not be able to go on some of the arduous hikes I did in my twenties and thirties, but there are ADA hiking trails available. Some can be done with a regular wheelchair, while others need the type of wheelchair mentioned above. Click here to learn more about how to prepare for a safe hike!
The advent of ADA facilities at parks and other areas makes going for a picnic much more feasible. It may be a good idea to bring a table if you are going to be with others at the picnic. Some park picnic tables may not be useable for some wheelchairs.
Most lawn games can be adapted for wheelchair users. This includes games such as croquet, ring toss, and table tennis. The games will help to improve both coordination and upper body strength.
Tips for Wheelchair Users
Do your research first
If you own your wheelchair, find out if it will be useful where you want to go. Of the four hiking trails close to where I live, only one is wheelchair accessible. The others are either too narrow to accommodate a regular wheelchair, too steep, or both. Other trails a little further away are considered ADA accessible.
Choose the Right Chair
There are narrower wheelchairs available. They are not electric, so they may not be helpful to someone like me, with little upper body strength. Those chairs could go on two more of the trails if the person is strong enough.
A simple phone call can help you find an enjoyable place to go that provides what you need. This includes shopping malls, grocery stores, theme parks, and zoos. In addition, many businesses have electric carts available to those who don't need a wheelchair full time, which is my case.
Know the Rules
Whether you own or rent your mobility device, there will be rules. At the San Diego Zoo, for example, there were certain routes I couldn't explore because they were too narrow. Likewise, when playing sports such as golf and bowling, there are also rules that apply to those who need wheelchairs.
Consider Going with Others
This is true for those with an able body as well. Hiking and single-player sports can be hazardous. Having someone with you makes it safer for both of you. If one is injured, the other can call for help.
Keep this in mind even for activities like simply going around town. If your chair breaks down, it may take time before someone can get to you to help you get home. I've seen it happen. Power chairs are more likely to be a problem because many things can render them inoperable, including running out of battery life.
Being older doesn't mean we have to sit around in a rocker thinking about the good old days. On the contrary, even if you are in a wheelchair being out and about can help reduce stress and ease depression.
Let us know in the comments below - What is your favorite wheelchair-friendly activity?