Walking aids: how to choose the right one

If your aging parent is having trouble getting around, there are many mobility aids that can help keep them mobile. They range from simple single-tip canes to the fanciest rolling walkers with seats and shopping baskets.

It can be a little overwhelming to understand the differences between these products.



Simple cane

Canes are helpful walking aids when the biggest issue is balance. They provide a simple way to prevent falls and give greater confidence. You can choose from folding or straight models. Pictured is a high-tech carbon fiber cane that weighs only 7 ounces. Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum but six times stronger. The folding version adjusts between 33 and 37 inches long, which fits most adults.

If you need to put more weight on your cane, look into a “quad cane” with four tips on the end.

Also look into canes with seats. These are a little heavier and bulkier than a standard cane, but the advantage is they come with a small seat where you can perch when you need a rest. These are particularly good for family outings where the older person may need to rest from time to time to keep up with the younger generations.



Permanent crutch

Crutches provide much more support than canes. Instead of relying on the strength of your wrist, canes use the strength and stability of your entire arm. Most models consist of an arm cuff and a handgrip attached to a strong aluminum tube. (For long term use you want to avoid the “broken leg” style wooden crutches that go under the armpit — they’re just not as comfortable.)

Consider a crutch with an ergonomic handle because these have been designed to distribute pressure over a greater area of the user’s hand. This makes the crutches easier and safer to use.

You can also find crutches specifically for people with arthritis in their hands. You use them with a bent elbow and put your weight on your forearms. (These are a real lifesaver for people who can’t use a cane or regular crutches due to their arthritis!)


For people who need an extra measure of confidence, walkers provide a sturdy frame for balance and for weight distribution. They come from the simplest metal frames with cane tips to more deluxe models with wheels or special stop and start wheels that roll easily when the weight is taken off of them but lock when you press down. Look for a folding walker if you’ll be transporting it a lot.



Rollators provide freedom

Rollators are the ultimate in mobility assistance and comfort. These “super walkers” have easy-rolling wheels and hand-grip brakes. No more shuffle-step as you have with a standard metal walker. Instead, you can roll along at your top speed, with full balance and a frame to lean on. Plus, rollators have an included seat and backrest so you can rest when you need to.

The Mobility Superstore has over 6000 independent living products to help anyone with mobility issues live a more independent life. In addition to the walking aids discussed here, they also carry mobility scooters, beds, reclining chairs and electric wheelchairs.


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