3 rules for choosing the right walking aid
One of the most important ways to deal with mobility problems is using mobility aids, such as walking canes and walkers. The World Health Organization named them one of their priority assistive devices to raise awareness of the need for their usage .
Walking canes and similar devices are used not only by seniors, but also by people challenged by various diseases and disabilities. Therefore, there are many types of walking aids, not all of them suitable for everyone. In this article, we will present the factors you should consider when choosing a walking aid.
1. What to expect when choosing a walking aid.
Necessity is the mother of invention. People with mobility challenges can have truly diverse needs and lifestyles. This boosts research and new developments that aim to help them. That’s why nowadays we can choose from a range of differently designed walking aids, appropriate for different needs.
Your search for the right walking aid might surprise you with how many factors you should consider when choosing the assistive device that will suit your needs. For example, walking canes can be straight or offset, have various handle types, be one- or four-pointed, and be made of different materials. To make your search easier, we’ll provide you with some tips on the most important points.
2. How to choose the perfect walking aid?
Consider all your needs, challenges and disabilities.
As we get older, our bodies are challenged with diseases and disabilities more often. These health problems, such as neurodegenerative disorders (eg. Parkinson's disease), arthritis, strokes, osteoporosis or reduced eyesight and hearing, often cause issues with movement. The way they affect the body is different for each of them. A walking aid should therefore be adjusted to these disorders and our needs .
A walking aid, and especially its handle, should be comfortable and ensure that the joints and muscles don’t get too strained. Standard, universal handles, such as in the rollator-cane Wheeleo®, make sure that you have a proper grip and give you comfort of use. Ergonomic handles might be helpful in some cases, such as arthritis.
The stability in terms of “touchpoints”
If the most important problem you face is balance, you might want to choose an aid with several touching points: a quad cane, a rollator-cane or a rollator. Most of them have four points of contact with the ground that ensure stability. In case of rollator-canes and rollators, the contact with the ground is through the wheels which gives you continuous stability. Additionally, the Wheeleo®, a rollator-cane, only uses one of your hands, which might be the best choice to improve both your stability and independence. The Wheeleo® helps patients with Parkinson’s disease and post-stroke disabilities, as well as people experiencing other aging-related mobility challenges.
Some difficulties pose the need for continuous physical support for your body. When lifting a cane might cause a fall, many choose a traditional walker. The downside is that these devices are big and inconvenient. In this case, innovative, compact devices such as rollator-canes can come in handy.
Summing up, when choosing a walking aid, it’s crucial to listen to your body and consider how different parts of your device (handle, points of contact, wheels) can benefit your mobility.
Keep the terrain in mind.
When choosing a walking aid or cane, remember to try it out in your typical environment. Some aids are more suitable for certain terrains than others. For example, if you use stairs frequently or walk on uneven outdoor surfaces, a wheeled walking aid will be impractical. However, if you only walk indoors on level ground, the wheels will allow for more agile movement. Nevertheless, the most common situation is that our environment shifts all the time. This calls for more than one device: a cane for uneven ground, a rollator for even outdoor surfaces, or a rollator-cane for even surfaces, both outdoors and indoors.
Another factor you should think of is the length of your device. In the case of canes, their different length will result in achieving different goals. If you need solid support, your handle should be lower than if the goal is just improving your balance. The more your elbow is bent, the lower the weight that cane can support. The rollator-cane Wheeleo® can be used with several length settings, assisting you in both, stability and balance. Another case in which the length of canes is crucial is if you use the stairs (only applicable to one-pointed canes). If a cane’s too long or too short, it may cause falls, especially when walking down the stairs. The general rule for one-pointed canes is that they should be the height of your wrist when your arm is relaxed . What’s more, the cane’s length is crucial to keep your posture upright. Incorrect cane usage causes problems with the stability of the spine, therefore it’s important always to follow the doctor’s or physiotherapist’s instructions .
Overall, to choose a walking aid that fully complies with your needs, consider the regularity of the environment, your height and goal you want to achieve.
3. Follow the direct professional advice.
Reading this article might give you some insight into how to decide on the best walking aid for older people. But nothing and no one will help you better than your physician or physiotherapist.
Our bodies differ so everyone has individual requirements if it comes to assistive devices. Assessing these requirements might be a difficult task if you never had to do it before. To do it best, you should trust the expertise of your doctor. Your health and safety will benefit the most if the walking aid is tailored to your personal needs.
Be mindful of the differences
Remember that different situations might require different aids, so having two or more assistive devices is not uncommon. But the most important thing is to assess your walking aid needs well. If you choose your assistive device(s) mindfully, the quality of your life will vastly improve.
Check if the Wheeleo® is suitable for you:
Read about the Wheeleo®’s benefits for seniors
See the difference between the Wheeleo® and a quadripod cane in practice.
Everything about canes.