Give me some space please! Personal space requirements

personal space country walkway

Too often I find when sitting in a crowded restaurant or in a space with lots of things in it and lots people, I seem to become, as my father would put it, bumble-footed. No, I’m not alcohol or drug affected but my personal space requirements are not met in much modern design.

Interior design and personal space requirements

I often find it difficult to squeeze my way into a seat in a restaurant closely packed with tables and chairs, and then squeeze my way out, particularly after stiffening up and not moving my legs for a fair while. Is this an issue of mobility and ageing or is it an issue of interior design not meeting my personal space requirements?

Crowded cafe does not meet personal space requirements
Personal space is compromised in this crowded European cafe

If there’s a protruding table, chair or human leg, I’m just bound to trip over it, looking like I am possibly inebriated – okay, it’s certainly not helped if I’ve had several drinks, but that’s not really the point I’m making.

A recent experience emphasises the point. Sitting quietly in a restaurant I went to move my chair in slightly … the rear legs of the chair slowly, elegantly, gave way and there I was, on the floor, legs in the air staring at the ceiling, unhurt but a touch surprised. Now if this had been in one of those tightly packed spaces (and it wasn’t that sparsely furnished) I would have taken out another table and likely a patron or two! Thankfully we were not packed in like sardines in a can and the restaurant owners were appropriately mortified.

Personal space requirements met here
This small bar in Lyon still provided excellent personal space

Ageing and mobility, when does it become an issue?

I also have a real difficulty navigating areas that have little steps or unexpected rises/falls that have no warning mark to suggest they are there. Nice level footpaths that have a protruding tile, brick, root, rock etc are the bane of my life.

Ageing and mobility challenged by this surface
These little protrusions are a challenge to staying vertical

My feet just don’t seem to clear the ground as much as they did before or perhaps I’m just getting lazier. So, much as it annoys me, I find myself having to spend more time very consciously looking where I’m going, which is sometimes not very sociable and causes me to focus on the ground, not where I am, being in the moment, and I really don’t like that.

While walking on a bush track, I sort of march, which is quite appropriate if you’re bush walking or on rough surfaces, but not on most city streets; it looks strange.

Sensible footwear also helps and I have some great shoes/boots which provide comfort and stability, both casual and more formal. My other challenge is to simply be more aware of my surroundings, I need to concentrate more than when I was younger. Then again, I have more to lose these days as I don’t seem to bounce with the same resilience as I did when I played football.

I know that my balance was affected when I had my hips replaced, but I thought I had sorted that out, so I guess I must just be ageing and that must have affected my mobility.

An uneven path an issue for ageing and mobility
An uneven path; an issue for ageing and mobility

Jan also; the poor woman recently had a couple of instances on two successive days while we were travelling; one with a protruding rock on an otherwise smooth gravel pathway and one with an unmarked rise on a pedestrian crossing. Both found her suddenly on the ground. It’s very disturbing walking along and suddenly find your partner or yourself on the deck.

Impressive as were the quick and helpful actions of passers-by on both occasions, a fall can be disorienting, embarrassing and they hurt! Not just your dignity. I, of course, simply explained Jan was drunk . Passers by were helpful which was very reassuring once we ascertained nothing was broken. By the by, Jan reckons if there is a pea on the path, even a cooked pea, she would fall over it.

When design meets personal space requirements

My personal space requirements also emerge in accommodation while travelling. Good, thoughtful design is really important. I have no problem with small rooms that have had some thought put into where my bags go – readily accessed and opened.  Also how far my knees are from a door or wall – when seated in that all important place, and if I can actually wash my back and hair in the shower – without putting an elbow out of joint. Really, I don’t need than much room, but it must be functional. This becomes so very obvious when occupying tiny spaces that have been well thought out and more so, those which have not.

Maybe the day will come when I have to avoid going to certain places or doing what I want to do. But for the moment, I’ll plough on regardless; hoping my accommodation has been thoughtfully designed and that others I am sharing a restaurant, shop or footpath with may cut me some slack.


Do you at times find it difficult to navigate small spaces ? What annoys you most about poorly designed spaces?

Older and Wiser