Walkers for seniors are low technology assistive medical devices that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, and are all designed to fit particular needs. The main objective of a mobility aid is to provide a degree of independence, improving stability and movement to those who need assistance moving and cannot bear weight on one or both their legs. Being of limited mobility can inhibit the lifestyle and activities a senior is accustomed to. In addition to physical limitations, it can be detrimental for mental health as well, increasing feelings as isolation and dependency.
Walking aids are reliable, affordable, transportable, and an increasingly common way to move around, prevent falls, and maximize mobility potential. A walking aid can enable a person to continue living as they were before, go shopping, socialize with friends, and even travel safely, providing the stability and balance needed.
It is important, especially as we age, to stay as active as possible, in addition to recognizing one’s physical limitations. Mobility aids can help increase activity and conserve energy, letting a person choose when and where they need them the most.
Walkers for seniors can provide the following relief along with basic walking assistance:
- Improved stability by supplying a wider range of your center of gravity.
- Reduction of lower limb loading; in other words directing the majority of load bearing in the arms and walking aid rather than the legs or lower half of the body.
- The propelling movement of the arms and walking aid substitute for the joints and muscles of the spine and legs.
Types of Mobility Aids
How do you choose the best walker for your situation? In choosing, there are a few things to consider. Upper body strength is important to think about if the aid requires lifting, such as up and down steps, in and out of a car, or maneuvering uneven ground.
Health factors such as weight, height, and agility need to be factored in, used to determine the weight and size of the mobility aid that can be handled. Even the home, or places frequented are considerations, as the aid needs to be able to fit through the doorways and thresholds. Budget needs, dependent on ones insurance and financial stability, is also a major factor in purchase.
Both rollators or knee walkers can be designed for indoor or outdoor use. They require some degree of balance and coordination to use, especially lightweight models as they can tip easily if not guided correctly. Both devices are more expensive than crutches or canes.
A basic senior walker (rollator) is a stable aid that consists of a freestanding frame. A wheeled walker, otherwise known as a rollator, can come equipped with a seat and basket for a person to rest on and carry their personal belongings in, respectively. Many aids are lightweight and foldable for easy transportation and storage. A rollator can be comprised of two, three or four wheels, and come equipped with adjustable height handlebars and hand brakes, both of which aid in the steering of the device. Some upper body, arm and leg strength is needed in order to propel a rollator forward.
While knee walkers generally are the same basic design, consisting of small pad to rest the knee on, and wheels, rollators come in a variety of wheeled styles.
- 2 wheeled rollators have wheels located in the front only, and two back legs. Generally there is no seat or storage space on 2 wheeled walkers.
- 3 wheeled rollators have one wheel in the front and two in the rear. Typically these rollators are preferred for indoor use due to their tendency to be the most lightweight and easy to steer around small spaces with a tighter turning radius. They are less common than 4 wheelers, as they are less stable and tend not to have seating.
- 4 wheeled rollators are the most basic style with two wheels in the front and the back. These rollators are the most stable and reliable, with larger seats and storage spaces.
- wide support base
- seats to provide a resting place
- foldable for transport and storage
- using requires some degree of leaning forward constantly
- need stability to use
- both arms needed
A knee scooter, or knee walker, can consist of 2, 3, or 4 wheels, with a place to rest a knee and storage basket or bag. Knee walkers provide comfort and a safe, easily maneuverable alternative to crutches or canes. Seniors with limitations such as leg injuries or surgeries performed above the knee are not considered good candidates to use knee walkers. Knee scooters can not maneuver around stairs and are typically heavier than a rollator. Therefore they may be harder to transport and store, and cannot be folded depending on the model.
Knee Scooter Pros:
- more stable than crutches, and low to the floor
- platform to rest knee without weight bearing
- no upper body strength needed
- less coordination needed to steer as opposed to crutches
Knee Scooter Cons:
- can take getting used to balancing
- slower moving than crutches depending on surface
- not usable up or down stairs, may not fit through doorways
It is important to seek the professional opinion of therapists and physicians when deciding on an assistive technology mobility aid. Specialists will be well versed in the types and styles of aids on the market, and be able to give an assessment of a patient’s’ physical and medical
needs in order to provide recommendations for an appropriate device.
Some attributes of the patient taken into consideration include:
- medical condition
- physical readiness
- functional ability
- environments; including home, work, and regularly frequented places
- extracurricular activities
It’s pertinent that any mobility device is tested out before making a final decision. If possible, devices may be taken home on a trial basis. Adjustments on mobility devices can be done at a therapist’s office, ensuring fit and comfort levels. Modifications can be made at your suggestion before taking any device home.
Muscle weakness or pain, loss of balance, poor coordination, impaired eyesight are all dangers that are posed to anyone who is at risk for falling due to surgery or natural aging. In addition, falls can cause prolonged secondary issues such as hospitalization, medication prescription, and reliance on others to help with basic tasks. Utilizing a mobility aid can be life changing for these people, and provide limitless positive benefits, including living a more fulfilled life.