“No, I’m Not Taking My Cane to Norway!”
Lois Hanson vowed to improve her mobility, despite crippling osteoarthritis. Here's how she rebounded—and tossed her cane for good.
For years, Lois Hanson had dreamed of visiting Norway, where she had relatives. But finding the time? Well, that was a challenge: “I was too busy raising 10 children!” (not to mention her 27 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren!), she says, laughing.
So when daughter Jennifer suggested last December they go to Norway and Scotland in the spring, 82-year-old Lois was raring to go—but her body said otherwise: “I had lost my ability to get around and become dependent on a cane. I was hesitant to travel to the next state, let alone another continent,” recalls Lois, who suffers from osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease in her spine.
“I felt housebound”
Except for a weekly water aerobics class, recent years found Lois often confined to her condo. “I did quilting, reading, crossword puzzles,” she says. But all that changed last Christmas: “My daughter asked me to consider going to Europe with her in June,” says Lois. “She was taking yoga in Scotland and wanted to extend her trip to see Norway—neither of us had been there. So I set a goal to be able to travel without my cane.”
Lois asked her doctor for a referral to a physical therapist (PT) and began exercising three times a week with her PT, as well as doing the routine at home on the other days. “Just simple, basic exercises, like going from sitting to standing without using my hands to push off the chair,” recalls Lois. “But they made a huge difference!” As Lois’ muscle strength and coordination grew, so did her confidence. Within just two months, she was using her cane much less.
When the day of her trip came, Lois boarded the flight that would take her to Norway—and is proud to say she left her cane behind! Lois says her newfound freedom allowed her and Jennifer to tour the countryside and see their relatives near Oslo. One of her favorite memories? Taking a cruise through the Norwegian fjords!
“Think beyond limitations”
To top it off, Lois did yoga for the first time with her daughter in Scotland, and she credits the poses with helping her stay limber today. Adds Lois: “Think beyond your limitations. If you want to travel, make a plan. If you think positive, it will happen. That may sound clichéd but it’s true!”
These exercises are similar to the ones that helped Lois. Just ask your doctor before trying them.
Squat, or “sit to stand” exercise: Improves balance, strengthens core
Sit in a sturdy chair. Rise up to standing without using hands (keep arms out in front). Do 10 times, twice a day.
Hip abduction (side leg raises): Strengthens hips.
Stand behind a sturdy chair, legs straight (don’t lock knees). Slowly lift right leg out to a count of two. Pause and lower to a count of four. Do 10 times on each side, 3 times a week.
Pelvic tilt: Improves posture and tightens stomach and buttocks.
On floor or firm mattress, lie on back with bent knees. Slowly roll pelvis up until hips are off the floor. Pause and roll down. Do 10 times, twice daily.