Letting Lettie Fetch Her OWN Newspaper!
Every morning our elderly neighbour Lettie-from-across-the-way, walks outside her front door, down the steps and across the driveway to collect her newspaper from off the front lawn.
On her way back in, she pauses to glance over the neighbourhood, pretends to pick a bit of dead leaf off the rose bush at the bottom of her steps, then toddles back inside to (probably) put her feet up from a job well done.
But it's painstaking to watch!
Nearing 90 years old, living alone, with seriously swollen ankles from kidney disease and being almost blind thanks to advanced macular degeneration, Lettie has slowed down significantly in the last five years.
We know this because we have quite literally witnessed the progressive decline in Lettie's mobility thanks to our lounge room windows facing directly opposite hers.
Especially not funny at Xmas...
Which means we get to see all Lettie's coming and goings (as she does ours) so we have gotten to know her daily paper pick-up ritual by heart.
But that doesn't make it any easier!
Awkwardly steering her wheeled-walker to the top of the steps, our hearts are in our mouths as her front wheels teeter close to the porch edge. Applying the brakes, just in the nick of time, Lettie then grapples her way down the steps in lunging fashion, by means of the metal railing installed by her family a few years back.
She then shuffles... barely lifting her slippered puffy feet... across the driveway to the edge of the lawn where she then stops dead still, hands on hips, to peer at the grass expanse before her.
Eventually, depending on the angle of the sun and the landing position of the newspaper on that particular day, she is usually able to decipher enough colour and outline to make visual contact with her printed prize.
If the paper has made touch-down on the driveway however, poor legally-blind Lettie has NO CHANCE of finding the dam thing! As I guilefully explained to my 13 year old son, the grey-ness of the concrete doesn't make the off-white newspaper 'pop' like the bright green-ness of the grass does.
Oh yes... actual science involved here, don't you know!
You want it?
COME GET IT!
Lettie then ambles her way across the lawn and upon reaching her quest, snap-bends in half to scoop up the cellophane-sealed roll in a one-motion move. Turning stiffly on the spot, she then pauses to gaze at the street around her (more to have a rest than to actually 'look' at anything), before wobbling her way back onto the driveway, then slowwwwwwly on towards the front steps.
It can be a good 20 minutes by the time Lettie has hauled herself up the steps to the security of her walker at the front door, during which time I have hung out a load of washing, ironed the school uniforms, yelled at the kids and fed the cat!
"God, can't we just do it for her?" begs my son who can stand watching it NO LONGER.
"Oh no, absolutely not!" says I.
Then, pleased that I get to share my carer's expertise on somebody (anybody), I then go on to explain that as long as Lettie is able to do it for herself, then we MUST let her.
And that regardless of Lettie's dissipated eyesight and her 'old lady' health issues, it was important for Lettie if she wanted to remain living in her own house, that she be able to do boring chores such as this, for herself.
I also knew, from chatting with her daughter Sue, that Lettie had very little other physical activity going on in her day. She felt it crucial that her mum be encouraged to continue this one daily routine, this one small piece of exercise, in order to keep blood flowing, muscles moving, her mind stimulated and hopefully result in a much better quality of life for Lettie all round.
Lettie could exist alone at home feeling good about herself and know that she was maintaining her independence, her self-respect and the satisfaction that she still (mostly) had control over her own future.
And that's a really super important thing when you're an old person, as I explained to my son (who oddly, seemed quite fascinated by Lettie's newspaper regime).
"But what does she want a paper for anyway? I thought she was pretty much BLIND?"
I remember at the time staring blankly at Junior after this last line of inquiry. And as the wave of realisation washed over me... I thought it might be a good idea to give Sue a call.
"Nobody likes a smarty-pants, darling. Go let the cat out!"
OR LOSE IT!
promoting physical activity for a lifetime of health and well-being. Physical activity enriches our lives by supporting our ability to maintain independent, healthy lifestyles, and participate in and contribute to the community.