Here’s how it happened: Probably the most common sight among seniors in a retirement home are back problems. Back problems mean walking problems. We have every type of back problem imaginable here and then whole bunches that still haven’t been identified and are untreatable. The worst is the shuffle where one foot remains in constant contact with the floor while the body twitches and slides forward. Then there is the bent spine, the straight knee, the limp, the twitch, the foot drag and the foot drop. I belong to the ‘sideways bent’ class. All these ailments lead to one common symptom – the pain grimace. One soon learns who has what and which twitch is which.

The main topic of conversation among the sufferers is not the pain itself, but the remedies which range from snake oil to anti-inflammatories, from aspirin to antibiotics, to exercises in the water and on dry land, on the merits of getting out of bed in the morning.

The other day I dropped into a couch with a huge sigh of relief at taking the weight off my feet – and thereby my back. Sitting on the couch is a lady who I know by her own particular pain brand – the walking butt clutch.

“Are you sore when you walk?” I ask the stupid question as an ice-breaker. We have never spoken before. It works.

“The pain is excruciating,” she answers.

“And when you sit?” I say, continuing the questioning.

“Not too bad,” she says, “as long as I lean to the left and the chair doesn’t sag.”

“Hmm,” I say digesting this piece of information before I make my diagnosis.

“How about when you stand?”

“That’s the worst!” she exclaims, wincing at the very thought. “I cannot stand which means I am badly handicapped. No museums, no art galleries, no standing in lines at the bank or the bus stop and definitely no cooking!”

“Wow!” I offer in sympathy. “That’s pretty bad.”

“Any more questions?”

“What are you like in bed?”

There is a three second pause followed by a loud thwack which rattles my teeth.

“Well, it hasn’t spread to your arms,” I say, running for the door.