When I Realized I Needed a Walker as a 20-Something

“Quite an adventure today, huh?” she said looking at the walker I was sitting in. I didn’t know her, but her smile made me so much less self-conscious about using my new walker in public. I didn’t really know what she meant by her comment, so I asked my husband what he thought. His conclusion was that people with walkers probably don’t get out much, so this trip to Disneyland was “quite an adventure.” Boy was he right!

The decision to get a walker was slow and then very sudden. My first mention of it to my husband was at the DMV about a year ago. In the long line, I was becoming a little unsteady on the cane I had been using for just over a year and asked if he thought it would be ridiculous if I considered getting a walker. He was as opposed as a husband could be, “Walkers are for old people.” It would be OK for me to use a wheelchair, but walkers were not suitable for someone in her 20s.

Questions of getting a walker sprinkled the next year. It gradually became more appealing to both him and me. Then in a Walmart, I needed so badly to sit down from incredible lightheadedness that I almost sat right on the floor in the middle of the aisle. Thankfully, I was able to make it to the front of the store to sit in an actual chair, in which I calmly said, “Jordan, I want a walker.” It was no longer a question. The subject came up with my mom the next time I talked to her, and she lovingly bought me one online so I didn’t have to wait three more months to ask my rheumatologist at my next appointment.

A photo of the writer standing outside with her walker, while wearing her Mighty shirt.

The time came when I would be able to use my walker in public. I was so nervous, but I would have also been nervous as a 92-year-old using a walker for the first time in public. At home with my husband’s family was no big deal – they knew the struggles I’ve been facing and seemed completely understanding of what I needed. But facing the public felt so daunting and full of judgment.

“But,” I told myself, “I was just as scared to use my cane for the first time, and I conquered that obstacle.” I knew I would be able to do the same with a walker.

Aside from a couple stares, our trip to the store was not at all traumatizing. The worst of it was when I had to take a seat in the walker at the self-checkout while my husband went back to the car to retrieve the debit card I had forgotten. All the people who passed by me as I sat there double-glanced; but I got not smirks, no scoffs, no rude comments – none that I caught anyway.

Having this walker now prevents so many falls, both from weakness in my legs and lightheadedness. I am so grateful that I didn’t let the public’s view of my condition — or the restricted use of walkers for the elderly — stop me from doing what I knew I needed.

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