In his book, Start With Why, author Simon Sinek says that people are inspired by a sense of purpose (or “why”) and that we should ask this question first, before “how” or “what.” Recently, and somewhat unexpectedly, I became the co-founder and co-publisher of YouAreUNLTD. It’s a bold adventure and it is deeply personal. Inevitably, people have been asking me, “Why?” Why do this in particular? Why do this now?
So, here’s my “why.”
His name is Keith Hall and he was my father-in-law. Keith’s story is unique and all too familiar. At the time of his retirement at age 69, Keith was the longest-serving civil employee in the province of Manitoba. He was still climbing 150-metre telephone towers in rural areas in minus 30° C weather and loving it. At 69, Keith did not consider himself “old” – not even close.
“Clearly, it’s time to think differently about aging and about care solutions
associated with aging.”
Keith was living life on his own terms; he was truly UNLIMITED. He was active, engaged and interested in life with a bright future ahead of him. Sadly, around the time of his retirement, through no fault of his own, Keith developed diabetic neuropathy in his legs and slowly lost his ability to walk. At first, he used crutches and that was OK. But over time as his condition worsened, he became very unstable on crutches and was at high risk for a fall. Clearly, he needed something more. He needed a helping hand.
There were lots of options to provide help. We talked to him about walkers, scooters and other products that would help him maintain his stability and mobility. We left pamphlets strategically placed around the house where he might read them. But he never did.
“Just because there is a product that can help us, it doesn’t mean that we’ll use it.”
In Keith’s mind, these products were for “old” people and he wasn’t old. The real problem, of course, was that he couldn’t reconcile his image of himself with the people in the pamphlets. He simply couldn’t relate. My father-in-law, who knew what life looked like from the top of a 150-metre tower, refused to use an “old man’s aid.”
This story has a predicable but very sad ending. Keith eventually fell, broke his hip and died shortly afterwards. He left a void in our lives that is impossible to fill. He also left me with an important realization: Just because there is a product that can help us, it doesn’t mean that we’ll use it.
Maybe, just maybe, if Keith had had an example of someone like him who used a scooter or walker, he may have been able to relate and been willing to try one of these products. The real issue was neither about his neuropathy, nor was it a lack of care solutions available to support him. The real issue was the stigma associated with use of them and his condition. But why?
The more I thought about this, the more it made me really angry. Why should there be a stigma? If we are fortunate enough to live long enough, our bodies will eventually start to break down and we will all experience something – perhaps mobility problems, or bladder leakage, or something else. All of us will have some sort of health challenge. It’s a “body thing.” It has nothing to do with who we are as people. There should be no more judgement around these conditions than there is about the colour of our eyes. And the great news is that there are accessible, affordable – and really cool – solutions available to help with these conditions.
Clearly, it’s time to think differently about aging and about care solutions associated with aging.
And that is what YouAreUNLTD is all about. It is a movement that is smashing outdated perceptions of aging. Through our website, social media channels and magazine, we are shining a light on inspiring products, services and people who are empowering us to live unlimited lives.
So that is not only my “why,” but also our “how” and “what.” We invite you to join the movement. We invite you to live life UNLTD.