I’m not a big fan of David Avocado Wolfe. And since that’s who these images were being attributed to on Facebook, I was suspicious from the start. (Thanks to a member of our Facebook community for sharing with me the one below.)
What’s wrong with these images? Here’s three thoughts.
First, there are limits to choice. We don’t actually know that the woman in the wheelchair is there as a result of lifestyle choices. Not all diseases that result in one being in a wheelchair in one’s seventies can be prevented.
I watched my mother-in-law go from being a happy, healthy, vibrant woman who loved hiking, swimming, and cross country skiing to bring someone who needed help with basic day to day activities in just a couple of years. The cause? ALS. Its cause isn’t known. Random genetic mutation? Doesn’t matter. Eating right and moving lots won’t prevent it.
If you saw me pushing her in a wheelchair and thought she was there because she made bad choices, you’d be wrong.
Second, can we be so sure who has a good life? More controversially, we don’t actually know that the woman in the wheelchair has a worse life than than the seventy something body builder. All we see are their bodies and that’s just part of the story.
I know that for me, I love movement, sports, and physically activity. I want to be still doing this stuff in my senior years. I’m fascinated by elderly athletes challenging our stereotypes of senior citizens. In Is aging a lifestyle choice? I wondered how much control we do have over staying physically fit as we age.
Note though that not everyone likes physical activity when they’re young. Some people prefer art, films, books, conversation with friends and all sorts of things that aren’t exercise. If you don’t like it, the absence of physical activity in your life, isn’t making you worse off. You do you.
I choose activity because it makes me happy. But I know there are people who feel differently. And not everyone has a choice.
Third, and thanks to a commentator, see below, for pointing this out, not all people in wheelchairs are inactive or dislike physical activity. Many people feel excluded from physical activity because of stereotypes about people with disabilities.
We can celebrate activity in aging without treating seniors for whom it’s not possible as failures. Comparing is never a happy game at any age. And ableism is ableism at all decades of life.