Balance, My Broken Arm and Blah: The Effects of Staying Home

Standing on one leg at the kitchen counter. I can grab the counter when I wobble.

All I have learned since falling over a parking block  six months ago: It’s not so much the broken arm; it’s the staying home effect! Isolation has been the scourge of the pandemic especially for anyone with a disability, and isolation has affected many people with vision disability severely.

The Covid situation is better now in spite of the infectious Delta variant. There is vastly more knowledge about treatments and how the disease spreads than a year ago. We seniors are often vaccinated and careful. So most of us can go out, keeping the maddening masks over our noses and mouths much of the time.

My broken arm wasn’t just about good cane skills. The biggest barrier to travel around my new home town turned out to be the blah effect.

The Blah Effect

During last year and unfortunately somewhat repeating now, my life and that of I am guessing nearly all blind and low vision seniors was very confined and repetitive, so alertness and quick-thinking descended into “blah!”

The will, confidence, and stream of questions to coach family and sighted others was sliding away. I was not stretched and kept on my toes by going out to run errands or attend occasional events. Of course this was true for everyone but for those of us who have to “live on a social-psychological frontier, constantly facing new situations” (Erving Goffman, check end of blog,) the will to continue has to be renewed and practiced. I, like many seniors have some hearing loss which adds to the stay home mentality. But if I stay home energy, memory and clear thinking all weaken.

I heard from a vision teacher that veterans with vision loss are hesitant about meeting someone away from home. They say “Do i feel confident with someone outside my circle of safety?” This loss of confidence is also felt by clients at a California training center for people with vision loss. “Clients don’t want to go out,” the teacher said.

Loss of Low Vision skills

I visited almost no stores or businesses for over a year so processing of visual input; picking out a dark shape as a person behind a counter was diminished, as was a practiced ” take charge” attitude. All this has to be exercised as well as my arm. Coming up with creative solutions – the blind person’s great strength – has slowed. Finding good physical therapy was a piece of cake by comparison.

Balance and Strength

Now we get to what I thought would be the main topic. Apart from my arm my Body lost stamina, and core strength, and with much less lifting and bag-carrying probably bone density too. But balance is my biggest issue.

VisionAware Developing Balance

Balance exercises are usually based on seeing, so the comprehensive article from VisionAware on improving your balance is really useful. The 3 levels described go from chair exercises all the way to balance balls and inflatable discs.

Everyday Balance Activities suggests 2 balance exercises you can do as you make coffee or brush your teeth.

Joining an Exercise Class

As a person with little vision I know that joining an active class takes preparation and follow up; phone calls, arranging transportation, and talking to the teacher about describing the actions. So the following announcement of a bill in Congress is a hopeful sign.

Exercise and Fitness for All Act of 2021 (S. 2504/H.R. 4756)

Was introduced in Congress in late July. This bill aims to make exercise equipment and fitness instruction fully accessible to people with disabilities.

American Council of the Blind announcement

“Social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored what ACB and our members already knew – that the lack of access to accessible exercise and fitness equipment and instruction are a persistent barrier to equal access and results in deteriorating physical and mental health.”

Mobility Instruction

When I wrote the blog about falling I thought more instruction on cane technique was essential. It turned out alertness, confidence, and fitness were more important. I have now applied for refresher mobility lessons. One-on-one mobility training with a professional will show you safety techniques inside and outside your home and is essential to start with. But if like me you are basically well-trained there are video/audio descriptions online. Mike Mulligan, an Orientation and Mobility specialist has a YouTube channel with lots of videos of cane techniques: Blind On the Move.

If you are concerned about falling, Larry Johnson’s guest blog,

Stand Up to Falling has both scary and encouraging information.

But in the end it’s about opening your front door and practicing, a little at a time, interacting with the world.

Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Simon and Schuster 1963, Penguin Books, 1990, available on Kindle.

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