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Our ultimate guide to expertly choosing the right mobility aid

Explore the different mobility aid options that are available to seniors

Mobility is an important aspect of our daily lives that affects our ability to transit freely and accomplish routine tasks. Throughout our lives, our mobility level may vary due to surgery, illness, aging, or a combination of all three.

Mobility devices are especially useful as we age because they can help those with balance and mobility issues decrease their risk of falling. With an estimated one in four seniors falling in their home at least once a year, mobility aids are essential to keeping your loved one safe and independent. [1] 

Continue reading to explore the different types of mobility aids that may benefit your senior loved one.

Canes are great for seniors with minor mobility issues

#1: Canes 

Designed to support at least 25% of the user’s body weight, canes are typically most helpful for those with minor balance or mobility issues by providing support to one side of the body while walking.

Canes come in different styles that have a variety of handles and number of tips. One of the most common types of canes is the single tip cane which is a great option for older adults with minimal mobility issues thanks to its lightweight and portable nature.

For seniors that still wish to use a cane despite significant issues with mobility, a quad-point cane is a better option. Quad tip canes offer more stability as the user’s body weight is distributed across a greater area than with a single tip cane, offering more security to those with a greater fall risk.

Along with the different tip options for canes, there are multiple choices for handles as well: 

  • Round: This style of handle is the most common choice for many due to its popularity and convenience as it can easily be hung on a doorknob or a hook when not in use. However, due to the curve of the handle, it can become uncomfortable, especially for seniors with arthritis. 
  • Derby: This option has a distinctive hook at the end of the handle that provides more comfort than the round handle. It is easy to grip and a great option for most seniors.
  • Offset: This style features a slightly “L” shaped curved handle that is positioned over the body of the cane. This handle is typically padded and helps to evenly distribute the user’s weight and place less strain on the wrist. 

Read more: 

The four best transportation options for seniors that can’t drive 

Walkers provide support to both sides of the body

#2: Walkers

A walker may be the next option that you or your loved one should consider if the cane does not provide enough support. With structures on both sides of the body, walkers provide full body support to seniors with mobility issues that extend beyond one side of their body.

Walkers are able to support up to 50% of the user’s body weight, but they do require hand and arm strength as the user will need to lift the walker to move. Walkers are also a convenient option as they can typically fold for easy storage. 

There are attachments that can be added to walkers to help make them easier to use for seniors that have weakened upper body strength. A durable alternative to the tennis balls that are commonly seen on walkers, attachments like glide caps help the walker glide more smoothly across surfaces. 

If your senior already has a walker they are comfortable with, but you notice them struggling to lift it, consider purchasing walker wheel attachments. However, if your senior does not yet have a mobility aid and would not be able to lift a walker, consider purchasing a rollator instead. 

Rollators require less effort to move

#3: Rollators 

Sometimes known as wheeled walkers, rollators are a great option for seniors with substantial mobility issues. They are a convenient alternative to walkers as they do not need to be lifted and require less effort to move. 

Rollators also feature a padded seat in between the handles, which can be very helpful for seniors who tire easily. Some models also feature locking hand brakes for added safety. However, rollators may not provide substantial enough support for those with greater balance issues. 

Power scooters help seniors with mobility issues travel long distances

#4: Power scooters 

Requiring some upper body strength and dexterity, power or mobility scooters are electrically powered mobility aids that can greatly help seniors travel longer distances.

The user of a power scooter must sit upright while operating and typically must leave their arms extended to use the controls on the scooter. If your senior is able to do this, mobility scooters can help them run errands and complete other tasks at a fast pace without needing to walk. 

Power scooters come in different models, and they are typically made for either indoor or outdoor use. Indoor scooters have a more narrow base and are typically made with three wheels that are designed to not leave markings on the floor. Outdoor scooters are wider, usually with four wheels for enhanced stability.

One important note is that insurance companies will only cover mobility aids that are to be used in a senior’s home, so an outdoor-only power scooter would likely not be covered. 

Read more: 

6 tips for traveling with seniors

#5: Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are another popular option for seniors who either have difficulty walking or are unable to walk. If your senior loved one is going to be the one operating the wheelchair, it’s important to remember that some level of upper body strength is required. However, a wheelchair also offers the option for someone else to operate it.

Seniors may be reluctant to use a wheelchair, as it is a common misconception that only those who are immobile use wheelchairs. Many seniors actually have a couple of mobility aids and will use a wheelchair on a day where they find themselves struggling more than usual.

There are different types of wheelchairs with various features that are available to your senior loved one. Wheelchairs come in a variety of different weights, and you and your loved one can select one that is easiest for them to maneuver. There are also different lengths of armrests available: desk-length and full-length. If your loved one will be frequently sitting at a desk, you may find the desk-length arms work better as they allow the user to come closer to the desk. 

Remember: Talk to your loved one’s doctor for expert insights

If you’re still unsure about the best choice, your loved one’s doctor will be able to provide you with a professional opinion depending on the senior’s mobility level. This can be helpful if you’ve been noticing your loved one struggling with mobility, but they may feel too embarrassed or ashamed to bring this concern to you or their doctor on their own. 

Mobility aids work differently for everyone depending on their unique set of circumstances, so your loved one’s doctor will know what’s best. For example, some aids like walkers and canes come in different sizes and if you choose the wrong size, they could actually worsen the senior’s mobility.

A doctor will also be able to determine whether your loved one’s mobility issues would benefit from a physical or occupational therapist and provide you with a referral if so.

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Our trained caregivers can assist with a variety of needs including personal care, dementia care, cooking and serving nutritious meals, and companionship.

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1: CDC | Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls

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