Focus on the Whole, Not the Hole

Focus on the Whole, Not the Hole

How do you feel about using products that can help you have a better quality of life?  Assistive devices improve independent mobility and delay functional decline.  Too often, people don’t use them due to society’s stigma around them.

When we see someone using crutches, we think injured.  The crutches don’t define who the person is.  But that’s not true for assistive device products, such as canes, walkers, adaptive clothing and shoes, low vision aids, and hearing devices.  We focus on the loss of function instead of how the device helps a person continue to do the things he or she needs and desires.

No one wants to eat the donut because of the hole; the hole is what makes the donut!

While eating a ring donut, you are not fixated on the fact the middle is missing.  The donut is not “less than” because of the hole in the middle.  So why can’t we apply the same thinking to using an assistive device?  Instead of focusing on the decline that requires the use of the device, view the device as a part of what makes you the wonderful person you are.

OXO Company founder, Sam Farber, wanted to create a solution when he saw his wife Betsey having trouble holding a vegetable peeler due to her arthritis.  This led to the creation of the now iconic good grip handle design.  It has become a fashionable kitchen gadget choice for all people due to its comfort and style.  It’s a solution that addresses a need for people with arthritis yet benefits everyone.

When I was a child, getting orthodontic braces or prescription eyewear was viewed as a bad thing.  Today, these items are celebrated by children because of the colors and designs.  When things are viewed as trendy and have visually exciting options to select from, people want the product.

Assistive device options haven’t hit that popularity.  Many are still considered visually bland and undesirable.  Although some companies, like Fashionable Canes, offer chic options, older adults shouldn’t have to wait until retailers deem assistive devices “cool” to feel good about using them.

It is time to disrupt the societal perception that one’s limitation is because of the device.

Assistive devices aid in areas where the body is having difficulty.  The consequence of not using them is you miss out in taking part in activities with family and friends.  Assistive devices are not a sign of weakness – they are a means to staying engaged with the people and places that matter most to you.

A decline in abilities doesn’t reduce your value.  There is no shame is using assistive devices that will help keep you safe, active, and engaged.  Remember, focus on the whole (person), not the hole (loss of function).  Together we can shift society’s mindset around assistive devices.

Cathy Bollinger
Cathy Bollinger
Managing Director of Embracing Aging, York County Community Foundation

York County Community Foundation’s Embracing Aging improves how people experience aging by making people aware of ageism and its impact and helping organizations be more age friendly. Contact Cathy Bollinger, at or 717-848-3733 to learn more about our free resources to disrupt ageism and to join our movement to usher in a new age in York County.