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Interview with an 82-year-old woman

She is healthy overall, and has had two minor falls in the last 4 months

Photo of An Old Friend
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I interviewed an extremely independent Indian woman, who is 82 years old and lives in an apartment in New York by herself. Her husband has passed away and she has no kids, and no family nearby either. K lives a very active life - she drives, occasionally takes the bus/subway, does all her shopping, cooks, cleans and lives an extremely active life (she goes for movies, plays, concerts, card games, 1-2 international trips every year and various other outings). 

Physical health and fitness

K is in good health, especially for a woman her age. She is neither skinny nor overweight. She used to be very diligent about going to the gym or taking an hour-long walk every day, but lately finds herself too lazy to exercise. She does try to either do some stretching exercises everyday and a few times a week she forces herself to get some other form of exercise. She knows she should, so when she does she feels extremely virtuous!!

Fall No. 1

A few months ago, K was wearing a pair of loose palazzo pants and walking on the sidewalk when her foot got caught in the pants and she tripped over them and fell. She got a few bruises and a hairline fracture in her ribs. Rib fractures can't be treated anyway, they have to heal on their own, but luckily for her it wasn't very painful and didn't hamper her much. She was able to continue as usual, and it only hurt if she slept on her side or tried to chop certain harder vegetables, like onions. Within a few weeks the discomfort had gone.

Fall No. 2

K was on her way out, so she had her bag and some other items with her. Since the trash room is on the way to the elevator, she had some catalogues she wanted to discard. She threw them, but when she was leaving, the door caught the edge of a scarf she was wearing and she fell. Her neighbor was passing by and saw her and offered to help, but since he was a male she wasn't really familiar with, she got very embarrassed and declined his help. She was able to get up on her own, and didn't suffer much injury, just a slight cut on the inside of her lip that healed in a few days. The day after the fall, some of her friends came over to visit her, not because she fell, but because they had plans anyway. She didn't tell them she had fallen, and was relieved that no one could see the cut. 

Fall prevention

K does worry about falling. For the last year or so she's been wearing sneakers when she goes out so that she is a little more stable. She really enjoys dressing up but is trying to stop wearing certain things like palazzos and scarves that could get caught in places or trip her up, however she hasn't stopped entirely. She also says that she knows she needs to start being a little more careful about carrying too many things and being in a hurry - she wants to slow down and be a little more deliberate. If the weather is snowy or rainy she avoids going out - even if she's bought tickets to a program she will skip it to be on the safer side.

Alert system

Because K lives alone, she worries that no one will know if something happens to her. She had set up a system with D, a friend of hers, wherein she asked D to give her a call every morning just to check on her. They tried it out for some time, but D is much younger and grumbled about it a little. Another common friend of theirs suggested that since K was the one who needed the favor, K should call D up every morning, and not vice versa. They agreed, and K started calling D every morning, and D agreed that if K didn't call for some reason, she would follow up with her. They did this for some months, until K went to India. They didn't resume when she came back. 

K has a group on WhatsApp with 12 women from another social group of hers. Of all her friend groups, she is closest to this one and they really look out for each other. Many of them live alone. She made a pact with the women on this group, that all of them would text each other good morning on the group, and if one of them didn't, the others would follow up with her. They have been following this system for a while and it seems to be working. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

-Seniors realize that some situations are risky, and some they discover - they're living their lives like the rest of us, when suddenly something innocuous becomes a hazard. -They devise unique solutions to their problems, like Tuba mentioned.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am an NYU student with three years of experience in the digital journalism field. I am now getting some expertise in the user testing field.

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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Sanjana!

Great post! I like how this lady has created a community network that she can reach out to using Whatsapp. It reminds me of the Second Life communities in the idea post "First They Got Sick, Then They Moved Into a Virtual Utopia" 

I wonder if WhatsApp could be used as a tool in fall prevention for this lady. What do you think of footwear solutions like B-Shoe ? Would she wear something like this?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Sorry, an additional question - does this lady use WhatsApp to share advice? I have noticed that some of the posts in the challenge have mentioned how older adults have been hacking their own solutions for fall prevention e.g. Understanding Senior Needs I wonder how much of this insight has been captured and shared.

Photo of An Old Friend

Hey Kate Rushton I'll try to get in touch with her again to ask, I checked out the B-shoe post and I think it's an idea worth testing!

Photo of An Old Friend

Kate Rushton I followed up with her on these two specific issues and this is what she said:
-Regarding advice. She shares a lot of forwards on WhatsApp - text, images and videos. Most of them are not health advice, although some posts are. She doesn't create any posts, she usually forwards what other people send her. She does correspond with her friends semi-regularly on WhatsApp. She hasn't purchased a data plan so she can only check it when she's at home and has WiFi. She and her friends do discuss their health issues in person, and dispense advice to each other. She also participates actively in a community called India Home, a community center for seniors, that is run by an Indian doctor and her son.

-Regarding the B-shoes. She seemed a little skeptical of them. She commented on how unattractive they were and said that she was a little worried that they could cause you to accidentally fall if you weren't used to them. She said she may be interested in them if they were widely used and proven to be completely safe and a genuine preventive measure.

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