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We’ve all seen it — what appears to be a large belly hanging out over some old guy’s belt. Or that sorrowful sight called “plumber’s crack.” These are conditions without much sympathy in society, yet they are symptoms of a challenging disorder effecting thousands, if not millions, of older men. I am speaking, of course, about slippery hip syndrome, a problem that impacts the lives of friends, husbands, and grandpas you know and care about.

Since you may not be aware of this ailment, I’ll take a moment to describe it. Slippery hip syndrome occurs when men of a certain age have lost so many inches off their hips and posterior, their pants slide down off their waists. The result is the mistaken impression that bellies are too large when in fact the opposite is true — hips are too trim.

Men have tried to cope with this challenge over the ages. Think back to your grandfather’s wallet. Consider how thick it was. Most aren’t really wallets at all, they’re portable filling cabinets made of leather. Now check out the wallet of a twenty-something; it’s sleek and trim so it won’t interrupt the lines of his pants. What happens over the years to that young man? As he grows older, he loses padding and tries to compensate, but that only addresses one side.

On the other side is where the large red or blue bandana is bunched. Again, this has evolved from the nicely folded handkerchief of younger days to provide create a cushion. Of course, it doesn’t counteract slippery hip syndrome as both the bandana and wallet contribute weight, which means more slippage, increasing the trousers’ decent.

Then there is the tourniquet method, that is tightening one’s belt an extra notch to hold back the girth. This almost always fails, due to the weight pressing down from above the dam. It often impedes blood circulation with the risk of fainting. That’s one of the reasons old guys need to stop and rest so often. They’re not tired, their belts are just too tight.

This brings us to the one prosthesis that actually works: braces or suspenders. They hold the pants securely at their proper level, offsetting the problem of slippery hips. They also have the advantage of providing an attractive, streamlined look to a man’s torso. However, suspenders can be dangerous. They must be worn with caution and require some training, otherwise one risks the clips letting go under pressure which could put someone’s eye out. After all, suspenders are a load-bearing instrument.

While wearing suspenders, one does not just bend over, but must squat down with a slow and steady motion keeping the back straight, sort of like climbing up or down a ladder while squatting. And take care when clipping your braces on, as spacing is very important. Never clip over belt loops, always to one side or the other. The one in the back is tough. If at all possible, seek the assistance of someone you trust. Finally, be sure to look around before unclipping and keep a strong hold so the braces don’t fly off, breaking a window or wounding the cat.

Scott Funk lives, works, and writes (and gardens) in Vermont. His Boomer Funk columns are available at www.VermontFunk.com, as are his blogs and archived Aging in Place columns. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.