Your greatest senior moment: a guide for older amputees

While much about growing old can be daunting and overwhelming, rehabilitation after an amputation doesn’t have to be!

How did this happen?! How did you get here?! As they saying goes,“Ageing is not for sissies.” This is a reality that you’ve had to make peace with more times than you’d like to admit. Then life throws you a curve ball, and the big A-word that no one even wants to say out loud becomes your worst nightmare.

Yes, amputation comes knocking at your door. At the same time, out of sympathy, the hospital staff start calling you Oupa or Ouma as though you’re related. You see the uncertainty in the eyes of your family members. They are unable to hide their worry and fear because amputation is a shock to the system for everybody involved.

You start thinking, “Am I going to survive this? Am I going to be okay?” I have often said that children rehabilitate better than older patients because their minds don’t get in the way of the rehabilitation. I know that I am leaving out a few variables by saying this, but there really is a lot of truth to this statement and within this lies your secret to survival.

There, where you are sitting and thinking “I’m supposed to be enjoying my grandkids and retirement”, I’m asking you to embrace this change. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and a chance to rehabilitate and, yes, a chance at life!

I can assure you that hundreds of amputees in your very same position were pleasantly surprised at just how easy this amputation rehabilitation business really is. I have seen it with my own eyes many times. I know of an 81-year-old man who refers to his amputation after being rehabilitated as “the flesh wound”. With today’s entry-level technology, there are few reasons not to adopt his mind-set.

Six months earlier, shortly after amputation, this man and his wife were sitting in my consultation room, very worried and unsure about the future. Today, they spend most of their time exploring game farms – their favourite hobby.

Please don’t allow your amputation to put you into a tailspin. Do not overthink! Rather move forward slowly as you have done most of your life. Start by using your wound recovery time to plan your next holiday, family get-together or your granddaughter’s upcoming wedding!

Amputation is not the end of the road. It is just a new chapter with the potential to unfold into your greatest senior moment.


Heinrich Grimsehl is a prosthetist in private practice and a member of the South African Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (SAOPA). email:

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