How to Choose a Mobility Device

By June 10, 2015Aging in Place

One of the biggest problems with the natural process of aging is a decrease in mobility. When moving around becomes difficulty, falls become a significant risk. Using a mobility aid is one way of helping seniors maintain mobility – inside and outside of the home. Here is a guide on how to go about purchasing the right mobility aide for your senior.

Canes

Canes are a great mobility aide for seniors who are unsteady. They provide support when one leg is weaker than the other or can be used as a general walking aid. Canes are useful both in and out of the house and are less “intrusive” in appearance.
Buying a sturdy cane is essential but you do have some choices in the type and appearance:

  • Traditional “Shepherd’s Crook” – Generally made of wood with a single rubberized tip. Standard canes are often the most inexpensive but you should look for a sturdy one. Care should be taken to ensure that the tip does not become dirty or worn which can decrease the cane’s ability to grip the floor. An occasional rub with stainless steel can help prevent hardening of the rubber and prevent lint from becoming an issue. Worn tips can easily be replaced with new ones.
  • Offset Cane – Most commonly made of metal with a plasticized grip. These canes usually have three or four tips on a “platform,” which can provide additional stability. Care should be taken to ensure that tips still grip the floor.

Walkers

Walkers are larger than canes, as they have four legs and are typically made of metal. Walkers are not as useable in crowded or cluttered areas and the doors must be wide enough to accommodate the device. Walkers may be fitted with small bags which can allow for transportation of small items. There are three basic types:

  • Standard Walker – Usually a basic device with an aluminum frame and four rubber tipped legs. These are the least expensive but must be picked up and moved forward by the senior. All tips should be inspected for wear regularly but replacements are easy to find.
  • Two Wheeled Walker – similar to a standard walker but two of the legs, usually the front legs have small wheels rather than a simple tip. These walkers are easier for seniors to lift and move forward but the senior may need to adjust to using the device to make sure that it is firmly planted on the ground as the he walks forward. Tips and wheels must be cleaned on a regular basis.
  • Four Wheeled Walker – These are newer devices and rely on hand breaks to stop the walker. The often feature a seat and basket but the senior must have good hand strength and upper body balance. They are more expensive than standard walkers, looking more like sports equipment.

Maintaining some mobility, even if an aid is required, can help seniors remain active and avoid the sense of isolation and loneliness that comes from being housebound or from relying on others too much. Some seniors may be concerned about the appearance of being “feeble” but as the population ages, more seniors will be seen with walkers in public.

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