Rooting for our roots


Published: 6/18/2019 9:05:47 AM

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kate Clayton-Jones, founder and director of FootCare by Nurses in the Senior Center in Shelburne Falls, during one of her regular Monday clinics. My husband urged me in April to see Kate because I was feeling as though the crampons I’d been wearing all winter were inside, rather than outside, my boots. Kate is in demand and the earliest appointment I could get was a month later, by which time I was back in sneakers and didn’t think I needed help. I’m glad I went to Kate anyway.

In the waiting room I chatted with some of Kate’s clients and was startled to learn how embarrassed quite a few folks are by their feet. “I’ve always hated my ugly feet,” one woman admitted, “now, thanks to Kate, I’m on much better terms with them.” Another described how her husband’s toe nails would rip up the bed sheets. The situation improved dramatically when she persuaded him to go regularly to Kate’s clinic.

“Our feet are our roots,” said Kate when I’d removed socks and shoes and sat before her. She has brown listening eyes, the eyes of an attentive nurse. Her confident, knowledgeable manner and quick smile call forth confidence that you’re in good hands.

Kate examined my soles, toes, nails, the web spaces between the toes, and my socks and shoes. As her examination, with probing eyes and fingers, continued I felt as though she was reading into my roots.

In that reading Kate identified, among other things, rigidity in my toes from too tight footwear in the toe area. My winter boots contributed to this. And my sneakers were also contributing to it. Kate picked up one of my sneakers, took the lace out and deftly re-laced it, mentioning that there are 43,200 ways to lace a shoe! She said stiff and rigid feet can lead to balance difficulties. Which can lead to falls. And falls are up there with heart attacks as an enormous danger among the elderly. For when we fall we can — like a tree — suffer cracks that may prevent us from being upright again.

Kate also trimmed my toe nails and massaged my feet and legs. (Which felt wonderful.) When I was putting my sneakers back on — now roomier in their toe space because of her re-lacing — I mentioned the appreciation I’d heard from her clients in the waiting room, and how one lady said she feels she’s “walking on air” after every appointment. Kate didn’t look flattered or surprised, as though what she does is simply rooted in good common sense.

“Our feet,” said Kate, “are such an important component of our well being, beyond painting them at a beauty salon, people rarely do much for them besides wearing shoes and going about their business—until they hurt. How feet operate impacts knees, hips, back, everything. One in four older adults have foot pain. Much knee, hip and back pain is avoidable when your feet are working well.”

Kate and I agreed these regular foot clinics are another example of the valuable services the Senior Center provides.

“This Senior Center has a phenomenal director and staff,” Kate declared. “And an amazing team of volunteers.”

“Getting older is not for the faint of heart,” she continued. “It takes hard work and having people in your life who understand that just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re less valuable and still in need of friendship and activities that are interesting. This center isn’t only an energizing place to hang out, it’s also a place where friends gather and great conversations happen. It’s a safe place to access resources that make aging easier, like drumming to keep the heart pounding at a great beat, Tai chi to keep the blood and lymph flowing, talks and services that make life doable, even exciting, and foot care to enhance balance and reduce falls….”

She glanced at the clock. My time was up, someone else was waiting to be with her.

As I left the building — feeling, yes, as though I was walking on air — it occurred to me Kate hadn’t only been talking about our feet as roots. She’d also been talking about our Senior Center as a place full of roots: roots of care, kindness, friendship, fun, hope, meaningful connections, real community.

Kate and her team are waiting to meet you. Call for an appointment and walk on in.

Claire Blatchford is a resident of Shelburne.


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