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HEALTHY AGEING

A guide to walking aids

Walking aids such as walking sticks, rollators and zimmer frames can greatly help your independence, if you choose the right model for you.

January 05, 2022

Elderly couple with walking sticks

Walking aids can help people move around safely and maintain their independence inside and outside the home.

They can be a great complement to a fall alarm and help reduce the risk of a fall.

There are many different types of walking aids and in this guide, we look at the various options available, the benefits and why you might want to consider buying a walking aid for yourself, or a loved one.

 

Why you might want a walking aid

A walking aid can be useful for anyone who finds it difficult, or painful to walk independently. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as an injury, an operation or a health condition.

A walking aid can make getting around easier and more comfortable and can help prevent falls from occurring. Walking aids can also give you the confidence to walk independently again following a fall.

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What are the benefits of a walking aid?

There can be many benefits to using a walking stick or similar mobility aid:

1. Increased confidence

Using a walking aid can help you feel more confident moving around independently and enable you to get on with the daily living activities you enjoy.

2. Make you feel safer when out and about

Walking aids enable you to get outside safely, knowing that you have support should you need it. They can help you navigate public spaces safely and confidently.

3. Help you remain independent

A walking aid helps you stay independent and means you don’t need to rely on others for assistance to get around your home, or outdoors. This, in turn, can help boost your self-esteem.

4. Reduce the risk of a fall

When fitted and used correctly, a walking aid can help reduce the risk of falls, both inside and outside of the home.

5. Reduce pain and discomfort

Walking aids can make moving around more comfortable and enable you to walk longer distances without pain or discomfort.

6. Keep you active

Staying active is important for both physical and mental health wellbeing. A walking aid can help you keep active and on the go, even with reduced mobility or health conditions.

7. Make everyday life easier

A walking aid can help make everyday life easier by making it quicker and safer for you to move around.

Many walking aids are also equipped with handy features, such as shopping baskets, bags and seats, to make everyday tasks easier, too.

 

What types of walking aid are available?

When choosing a walking aid, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of options available. Here we look at the three main types of walking aid: walking sticks, rollators and walking frames (often referred to as zimmer frames).

1. Walking sticks

A walking stick is a simple, yet effective, walking aid and a popular choice amongst mobility aid users. A survey found that of people using a mobility aid, almost half of the respondents used a walking stick.

A walking stick can offer support when walking inside, or outside, and give confidence and peace of mind. It can also make walking easier and less painful for those living with disabilities, or long-term health conditions, such as arthritis.

A walking stick is easy to use and doesn’t take up very much space in your home, or car. They are a relatively inexpensive walking aid and can be used anywhere. They also come in a vast array of colours and designs, allowing you to express your individuality. 

There are many styles of walking stick to choose from, including: folding walking sticks and non-folding ones, tripod and quad walking sticks that offer additional support and stability, lightweight aluminium crutches and specialist walking sticks such as walking stick seats that can double as a comfortable perch when out and about. 

How to choose a walking stick

For more information, check out this guide from Ability Superstore.

Choosing a walking stick

 

2. Rollator

A rollator offers additional support when moving around, both indoors and outside. These wheeled walking aids are ideal for anyone wanting to stay independent without compromising on safety, or stability.

A rollator provides extra assistance when walking compared to using a walking stick, and is suitable for people needing more support.

Rollators come in a range of styles and benefit from features such as built-in shopping bags or baskets, or padded seats, offering a safe comfortable place to rest when moving around. This makes them a good option for people who want to be able to get out and about and carry out their usual daily living tasks and activities, but with the benefit of knowing additional support is there when needed.

Rollator options include tri-walkers (three-wheeled rollators) four-wheel walkers, indoor use rollators, rollator shopping trolleys and all-terrain ones. 

How to choose a rollator

For more information, check out this guide from Ability Superstore.

Choosing a rollator

 

3. Walking zimmer frames

Walking Zimmer frames are best suited for indoor use. They are available with, or without wheels.

Standard walking frames are lightweight and come with four feet fitted with non-slip rubber ferrules. To move around, you must lift the walking frame between each step.

Alternatively, glide skis can be fitted to the rear feet, enabling the walker to move more easily across flooring, such as carpets.

Wheeled walking Zimmer frames have two front wheels, or four wheels and let you move at a quicker pace. This makes them similar to a rollator and an ideal walking aid for people who can safely and confidently move at a faster speed, but need some support with their balance.

Walking frames come in folding, or non-folding styles. Folding walking frames are ideal for smaller homes with limited storage space, or cars with smaller boots. They allow you to easily take your frame along with you wherever you go. 

How to choose a zimmer frame

For more information, check out this guide from Ability Superstore.

Choosing a zimmer frame

Choosing the right walking aid for you

Whichever walking aid you choose, it’s important that it’s right for your personal needs and circumstances.

For many walking aids, such as walking sticks, you’ll need to measure yourself, or have someone else measure you, to ensure that it’s the right height.

When purchasing a rollator, or walking Zimmer frame, you’ll also need to consider the width and where you plan to use it. For example, will it fit through the doorways in your home? Do you need to be able to use it outside, too?

Before buying a walking aid you might want to make a list of the requirements that are most important to you. For example:

  • Does it need to fold away for easy transport?
  • Do you have difficulty gripping things and need an ergonomic handle to make this easier?
  • How much support do you require?
  • Do you want a walking aid to use everyday, or just occasionally?

No matter what walking aid you decide on, you’ll also want to ensure that you’re comfortable and confident using it. You also need to make sure you understand how to use any of the features, such as the brakes.

Using a walking aid incorrectly, especially on stairs, or wet flooring, can put you at increased risk of falls so, if in any doubt about how to properly use your chosen walking aid, you should always seek advice from a trained healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist, or occupational therapist.


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