Walk on the beach. What a good idea. But not today, thank you. That’s been my standard response to invitations to walk on the beach for the past few years.
I admit to fear of falling. I’ve fallen a few times, and written about that here. Of making a fool of myself by collapsing on the sand. Of loss of balance. Fear of loss of control. Anxiety about not feeling stable when even tiny waves wash in and out under my feet.
I suspect, like many other older men and women, John and I have become more risk adverse following events like knee surgery (his) and arthritis and a torn calf muscle (mine). A pity, because we challenge ourselves less and also bypass opportunities for fun. There’s a danger we’ll do less of what we love.
Aged Care for Four Year Olds
A current Australian Broadcasting Corporation program, Aged Care for Four Year Olds, provoked me. If you haven’t watched, the series demonstrates the value for seniors and children when they interact over time.
Children from an early childhood centre in Sydney were taken to a retirement village on a regular basis.
There, they interacted with eleven older men and women, in a range of activities. Spontaneous pairings between the children and adults took place, although sadly several of the adults failed to attract a special child.
Before televising began, psychologists evaluated the attitudes and expectations of the adults and the children and their parents. The older adults were also monitored for depression, physical activity and strength.
A range of activities planned by the early education teachers and others have taken place. Children and adults painted each other’s portraits. They watched eggs incubating until ducklings hatched, then petted the ducklings. Walks in the garden challenged all but the fittest adults. Creating a mural with paint-handprints resulted in hilarious sequences as children applied paint and pressed old hands to paper.
‘Come on, I’ll pull you up,’ one child offered when an old man said he couldn’t stand to take part in an activity.
The adult relented, stood and went with the child to the garden where he walked for a reasonable distance.
‘I fed three of us,’ an adult said after he’d shared a plate of chips with two children when they ate lunch together.
Ongoing monitoring shows a marked increase in sociability, stability and general well-being. Children and adults chat together. Some hug. There are two more weeks of programs scheduled.
A bus trip to the beach inspired me. The kids ran down three steps to the sand and paddled in the bay. Predictably, the adults sat at the top, anxious about possible falls if they ventured further. But, one by one, the children enticed them, bare-footed, onto the sand. The joy in the group became palpable as people who hadn’t paddled for years enjoyed the feel of the sand the sea.
A number of aged care facilities in Australia invite pre-school children to participate in occasional activities. Several state government have considered the idea. Results show that both children and adults benefit. Hopefully, one day this will be the norm, rather than the exception.
My walk on the beach
My youngest son, Timothy, invited John and me to picnic with him and my nine-year-old grandson at Rockingham (fifty kilometres south of Perth). Garden Island shelters the beach in a bay at Rockingham. Unlike at most beaches near Perth, there’s no surf, plenty of shade and only a strip of sand. Perfect for an experiment.
On Saturday, inspired by the Aged Care for Four Year Olds program and a beautiful early spring day, I took off my sandals and walked and paddled. The soft sand between my toes and little waves that lapped over my feet felt delicious.
At first, Tim hovered, hand out with an offer of security. After a little initial wariness, I soon struck off on my own for a short walk while he and my grandson got on with a game of frisbee.
Obviously, I thought, the sand is soft, so I won’t hurt myself if I fall. Far better than falling on concrete or a hard floor!
My unexpected walk on the beach rejuvenated me. I feel as if I’ve had a holiday. When I do it more often in future, my confidence and balance will improve. Thanks to a television program, I’ve learned again to be less cautious and to say ‘Yes!’ to a walk on the beach.