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Choosing the Walking Aid That is Right for You

Art Aiello |
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Art Aiello is a writer and editor based in Waukesha, WI.

When it comes to assisting your mobility, it’s important that you choose the walking aid that best meets your needs and those of your lifestyle. If you’re someone who’s always on the go, for example, you will need a mobility device that’s a bit different from that intended for someone who is more sedentary. So how do you choose?

First, it’s important to understand the walking aids at your disposal. Let’s begin with the cane. A cane is best for those who can walk unassisted but might need something to help them maintain their balance on occasion. They’re useful when walking on uneven ground, as well, since that kind of terrain can make balancing a challenge. Generally speaking, if you can walk unassisted and only need a little help with balance every now and then, a cane might be just right for you.

The standard walker is good for people who have difficulty walking unassisted and need the stability of a device they can put their body weight on as they walk. They are lightweight and can be lifted forward a bit at a time, much like a cane, or they can be slid forward using different kinds of feet — up to and including wheels. Standard walkers have height adjustments on the legs, similar to those found on crutches so that you can operate the walker at a comfortable height. However, they can be difficult to use on uneven terrain. More active users might become frustrated with them, as well, since they are not designed to move — or be moved — quickly.

The rollator is similar to a standard walker in that it provides added stability. However, it comes standard with four wheels so that you can more quickly and easily push it along. Most have hand brakes similar in operation to those you would find on a bicycle to keep the rollator from getting away from you. Unlike standard walkers, many rollators also come with a built-in seat that you can use, giving you the opportunity to rest, if necessary. For example, if you have COPD, which can cause you to lose your breath while walking, then a rollator — with its available seat — might be your best choice.

The Motivo Tour could be considered something of a blend between a standard walker and a rollator. The Tour is designed with a stow-away seat, allowing you to walk comfortably inside and upright while still giving you the option to sit and rest when necessary. Many rollators have a fixed seat design that forces you to walk behind and hunched over it, which can put a strain on your back, reduce stability and cause fatigue. Additionally, the Tour features a built-in private storage compartment, flip-out tray, and customization options.

Finally, there is the transport chair. Similar to a wheelchair, the transport chair is appropriate if you can only walk short distances unassisted or if you and a companion or caregiver are if traveling a greater distance — perhaps through an airport or through an event venue — than you think you will be able to walk.

Next, consider your lifestyle when selecting a walking aid. Give some thought to how mobile you need or want to be. Do you just need to get around in your house or other indoors areas? Then a standard walker or cane might be the ideal choice for you. Do you drive, or are you driven around a lot by friends or family? In that case, you want to make sure that whatever you choose is lightweight and easy to transport in a vehicle trunk. If you find yourself walking longer distances more often, then a rollator or Motivo Tour might be your best choices.

Speaking of walking longer distances, you might need to carry things with you and your mobility device. Perhaps it’s as simple a carrying a water bottle, or as critical as carrying medication or a small oxygen tank. There are accessories available to allow a basic walker to hold personal items, but they — and the accessories — add weight to the walker, which could be problematic if it doesn’t have wheels and you have to lift it to move it along. In that case, the rollator and Motivo Tour can give you the most options. Rollators typically come with a pocket or net for holding personal items. The Tour has a private storage compartment for holding personal items away from prying eyes. Additionally, the items can remain in that storage compartment even when the Tour is folded away for storage or transport in a vehicle.

As mentioned before, a transport chair might make sense if you are very active and frequently travel with a companion or caregiver who can push you over longer distances in the chair. You might want to consider buying or renting a transport chair for use on a vacation in addition to your everyday walking aid, be it a cane, walker, rollator or Motivo Tour. Then you will have the flexibility of selecting the device that works best for the situation you find yourself in.

Of course, costs vary by the type and complexity of the walking aid. Some insurance carriers will cover some or all of the costs. Be sure to discuss your needs with them to see if you qualify for any discounts or reimbursements.

And, of course, talk with your doctor about your needs and activity level, as he or she will be able to assist you in choosing the walking aid that is right for you.