At least four times a year, I fly across the country to visit my mother in the retirement community where she lives. I sleep on the couch in her small apartment and participate in her daily activities for at least a week at a time. So basically, for one month a year, not including additional trips for illnesses or surgeries, I live as a senior citizen. Or at least a senior citizen who needs the help provided by such a facility. The food is good and the amenities are impressive, but the average age is 85 and it’s hard to miss the physical and cognitive challenges present there. I don’t know the statistics, but it seems to me that at least half the residents are using a walker or an electric scooter or power chair. And before I continue, let me say that this does not represent what aging in America looks like for a great many. These folks have access to proper nutrition and quality healthcare. They also have access to hearing aids, pacemakers, knee, hip, and shoulder replacement surgeries. Meal conversation is filled with talk of aches, pains, and doctor visits. Many are escorted throughout their day by personal caregivers, allowing them a greater degree of independence despite mental lapses.
This is the fodder for the second sculpture in The Aging Project. I wanted this work to tell the story of the body’s decline. It’s an uncomfortable subject, but a reality for most of us. While it doesn’t define the people I have come to know, it impacts them in a significant way. Restricted mobility alters one’s life.
Fall Risk is the sculpture in question. That’s what is printed on your bright yellow wrist band when you are a fragile senior citizen in the hospital. In this case, Fall Risk is a sculpture represented by a bronze cast walker. It incorporates a femur bone with authentic knee and hip replacement hardware. On the front a stuffed animal is incorporated into the usual foam padding that protects the user. The brake lines are medical tubing. The seat of the walker is a vintage needlepoint cushion, hand embroidered with a set of keys. Keys impossible to pick up. Keys to the house. Keys to the car.
This sculpture is currently being photographed and will appear soon. The third sculpture in the series is uplifting and celebratory of the aging process – I promise.