One of the factors which takes its toll on many people in old age is the difficulty associated with getting out of the house. A person might lose their mobility for a host of reasons, whether it be arthritis or another chronic condition. This may lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which itself brings new problems. The isolation which afflicts some elderly people can get worse under these circumstances.
It is important therefore to maintain one's independent mobility for as long as possible. While many elderly people resist using mobility aids, it is better to keep an open mind to their benefits. Many people struggle with the self-image of using this type of equipment. It is also possible that they fear becoming reliant on it.
Different Kinds of Walking Aid
For some, these barriers are simply too great and they never overcome them. Others find that the practical benefits of special equipment outweigh the negatives. A simple walking stick, for example, provides support when travelling short or medium distances.
Some sticks have special weight-distributing handles, made to increase comfort. These are especially good for those with arthritis in the hands, who find conventional grips dig-in to the palm and fingers, causing pain.
If a normal stick does not provide enough support, tripods or tetrapods might be the answer. These have a single shaft branching out at the base to either three or four legs. This provides a wider, more stable contact with the ground. While not as light as a normal walking stick, modern materials keep the weight manageable. The height of these mobility aids is easily set via a pin-clip in the shaft.
Another piece of equipment to help with mobility outside the home is a rollator. These wheeled walking frames often have integral seats with a shopping basket underneath. They allow the user to lean on them with both hands as they walk. On many models, bicycle-style brakes help keep the walker under control. Rubber tyres and large wheels make rollators suitable for pavement use.
Four wheeled models tend to feature a seat: useful if you need a rest halfway through a journey. The basket is also useful as it removes the need to carry a heavy shopping bag by hand. It is easy to transport most rollators in the boot of a car. The seat flips up and the frame collapses down.
Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters
A wheelchair is a traditional aid to mobility which many people use when they lose the ability to walk unassisted. Broadly speaking, there are two types of wheelchair, attendant-propelled and self-propelled.
The latter is only suitable for those with good upper body strength. Self-propelled wheelchairs have large rear wheels, rotated by the person in the chair. These wheels have an outside rim which when pushed down, turns them and propels the chair forwards. Wearing padded gloves makes it less likely injure one’s hands.
Attendant-propelled chairs do not have the large rear wheels so require an assistant to operate.
It is important to plan your routes carefully when using a wheelchair. If you are using a self-propelled model, the gradient of any wheelchair ramp needs to be fairly shallow. Steep ramps require a lot of strength to push oneself up.
In order to ensure a shallow gradient, using a long wheelchair ramp is usually the answer. The drawback is that longer ramps require more space, so it needs careful consideration. It is not unusual for a climb of relatively few steps to need a ramp of six or seven feet.
Mobility scooters are another option for keeping on the move outside the house. While these are large and some quite expensive, many people find them invaluable. They require space to park at home and regular maintenance.
A standard wheelchair ramp may not be strong enough for mobility scooter. Check the weight capacity of any ramp before using it.
The advantage of a mobility scooter is that it can travel relatively long distances. Some models are suitable for roads rather than pavements. These come with headlights, indicators and wide, comfortable seats. Shelter covers are also available which fit over the top of the rider.