While not every senior will need a walker for assistance, those that do are often reluctant to start using one. They see it as a sign of getting too old, sick and frail to maneuver on their own. What they do not see, however, is that a walker can make them more independent. It can help them walk more safely, increase the amount and distance they can walk, and decrease their pain and discomfort while walking. Using a walker can increase self-confidence and improve their health.
Who could benefit from using a walker? Most seniors using walkers have musculo-skeletal (muscle/bone) or neurological health problems. They might have arthritis, mainly in their knees and hips, or a fractured bone, are post-surgical, or are recovering from an illness. Other conditions which may lead to walker use are Osteoporosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, or hemiplegia.
Before purchasing a walker, however, the senior should consult their doctor or a physical therapist for a balance assessment. There are different types of walkers, each having unique features. A physician can match a walker to the senior’s physical needs.
A standard walker has four straight legs with rubber feet. It requires the user to lift it to move forward. A senior needs good balance to handle a standard walker. For smoother movement, adding wheels to the front legs and glides to the back legs makes it possible to walk without lifting the walker. There are also four-wheeled walkers, or rollators. These often come with fold-down seats and brakes. A triangular design with three legs offers better maneuverability indoors. The best model depends on the senior’s gripping ability, upper and lower body strength, and weight. While wheels help the walker move more smoothly, it also requires greater control so it doesn’t roll ahead of the user. Adjustable walkers are the best option so the senior can adjust its height. A professional should also instruct the senior on the proper way to use the walker.
Once a senior has a walker, their home should be made walker-safe. Pathways should be wide and clear, and area rugs should be removed from floors so the walker doesn’t snag on the edges.
A walker should be regularly checked for wear. Wheels, glides and rubber feet wear out more quickly if used outdoors. Parts are replaceable, though. Before purchasing a walker, check to see if you have to purchase manufacturer parts only, or more readily available universal products.
Once someone has a properly fitted and measured walker, they have a wonderful tool to help prevent falls, increase strength, well-being, and independence.