If you don’t use it, you lose it! That’s why it’s so important for seniors to keep moving as long as possible. Simple movement, like walking, provides exercise and promotes healthy bones, muscles, and joints. But as seniors age, the likelihood of falling increases, causing regular movements to become dangerous. Whether a senior needs a walking device temporarily after surgery or permanently because of declining health, it’s important that seniors get the added support they need to move around safely. There are many assistive devices that are designed to help seniors maintain their stability and prevent falls, so they can continue moving around. Check out some of these assistive devices to help you or a loved one stay moving!
A cane or walking stick is one of the simplest and most common fall prevention device for seniors. A cane provides stability to help seniors increase their balance. They can also help reduce strain on the legs as weight is transferred from the legs to the upper body. These devices provide a lot of independence, too, because they are so easy to carry around.
There are several types of canes to be familiar with:
· Adjustable canes: Adjustable canes can be adjusted to different heights based on the height of the individual. Most canes measure approximately 36”.
· Forearm canes: Forearm canes include an extension at the forearm so the cane can provide additional support to the upper body. It can also remove strain from the hands and wrists for individuals with weaker arms.
· Quad canes: Quad canes have 4 feet at the bottom to provide even more stability for seniors struggling with their balance.
Canes also come in all sorts colors and styles, so you can match your assistive to your outfit or your mood. They are also very affordable and portable. When looking for a cane, make sure you get the right height and handle grip. You want the cane to feel comfortable enough for daily use.
Walkers are another popular fall prevention device for seniors. They have a durable frame and either wheels and/or feet. You can find 4-week walkers (also known as rollators, which we will talk about later), 2-wheel walkers, and Zimmer frames, with 4 feet. Some walkers are even designed like a bicycle or tricycle with an area to support a senior’s knee to move around safely.
Therefore, walkers are better fall prevention devices than canes for seniors who have moderate to severe issues with balance and stability because they can support much more body weight.
Walkers come in a variety of styles. Some don’t need to be picked up at all when walking, so they’re ideal for seniors with low upper body strength. Others can be folded easily for portability and travel. Some walkers also have a built-in seat so seniors can sit down and take a break whenever they need to.
A rollator is a specific type of walker that has all wheels. Rollators usually have a set of handlebars and a built-in seat so that a senior can stop and sit as needed. This design can usually also support baskets to hold personal items or other accessories, making it easier for seniors to get around outside their home.
Depending on a senior’s needs, they can get a rollator with adjustable handlebars, seat, and even with hand brakes. However, a rollator can be very heavy compared to other fall prevention devices and more expensive. Most rollators are 15 pounds, but there are lighter and heavier versions to make them safer and easier for seniors to use.
When purchasing a rollator, make sure you review the weight capacity to ensure that the rollator meets your needs. If you or your loved one wants to use their rollator outdoors, you may also need to look for a rollator that can maneuver in grass, dirt, and other outdoor surfaces.
Tips for Using Walking Aids
When using any type of walking aid, there are several things to consider to make sure you or your loved one remains safe and to minimize the chance of falls.
1. Remove clutter in the area. You may not always be able to control your environment, but you can remove obstacles that could cause an aging loved one to trip and fall. If you’re at home, watch for rugs, loose cables, and clutter on the floor. Refer to our free home assessment for more ideas. If you are out and a bout, try to find walking paths with fewer obstacles or even move items out of the way as needed. For example, if you are at a store, wait until aisles are less crowded before going down them.
2. Don’t use your aid on the stairs. When going up or down the stairs, it is safer to use the handrails or to use a stair lift. A walking aid could get clunky or get stuck on the stairs, causing more potential for a fall.
3. Avoid wet areas: If you or a loved one is using a walking aid, avoid wet areas. This could include the bathroom in your home or even the entrance at a store if it has been rainy outside. The grips on a walking aid may not be effective on wet surfaces and could increase the chance of a fall.
4. Consider a quality home care service: Seniors may also require additional assistance to help them remain safe while moving around. A caregiver can step in and assist as needed. Caregivers can be with a senior at all times and help them stand up and sit down safely and get their equipment ready to use. Plus, they are trained to help seniors avoid falls and can provide help with other daily tasks besides ambulation.
We hope these fall prevention devices and tips can help you and your loved one remain active and safe. For more ideas on helping seniors avoid falls, review our Fall Risk Cheat Sheet!