A walker is a type of mobility device commonly prescribed and used by older adults or those with a disability. These apparatus, together with canes and wheelchairs compensate for a person’s decrease in coordination, balance and strength. It also enables the user with more independence and reduces the effort required.to go around with their everyday lives. Moreover, being able to move with a mobility device, brings about confidence and a boost in self-esteem that some handicapped people need.
Other mobility devices
Aside from walkers, other mobility devices are available. These devices have their advantages and target a specific predicament.
One of the most common mobility aid known. These devices, which can be used in pairs or singly, transfer the body’s weight from the legs to the upper body. For people with short-term injuries, auxiliary or underarm crutches are usually the prescribed device. Users grasp onto the handgrip of auxiliary crutches while the device rest against the rib cage under the armpits. People with permanent injuries or disabilities favor the use of Lofstrand or forearm crutches where they need to hold onto a handgrip with their arms placed in a cuff. For those with weak wrists or handgrip, platform crutches are more amenable since their forearm rests on a horizontal platform.
These devices, same as crutches, support the body’s weight by transferring the load from the lower limbs to the upper body. People who utilize canes are those with high risks of falling due to problems with balance. Canes, however, set the pressure to the wrist. The common types of canes are white canes for the visually impaired; quad canes with a broader base consisting of four arches at the end of the cane; and forearm canes which distributes the pressure to the arms by providing support for the forearm. But from these mobility devices, the walker provides more stability and support. A 2015 study showed that the use of walking aids increased by 50% within ten years, with 11.6% using walkers, just following the 16.4 % of seniors who prefer using canes.
Walkers are metal frameworks with four legs to provide the user with balance and support. Walker frames, Zimmer frames and wheeled walkers are other terms to denote walkers. The term Zimmer frame was coined from Zimmer Holdings, a manufacturer of orthopedic and walker products. This mobility device is suitable for use indoors as well as outdoors. A minor disadvantage of this device may be its inability or difficulty in maneuvering through small spaces, with the frames taking too much space.
Types of walkers and its evolution
The origin of walking aids
Walker started to appear in the market in the 1950s. In 1953, the first patent for a walking aid was awarded to William Cribbes Robb. It was only in 1965 that Elmer F. Ries patented the first non-wheeled walker. But the patent for a device that resembled the modern-day walker was only in 1970 by Alfred A. Smith.
This device resembles the simple design of a walker, having a steel frame with four legs and no wheels. The frame slightly narrows in the front for more stability. All four legs of the walker stay in contact with the ground as the user moves. Users are required to lift the device and move it forward one step at a time. This task might be tiring for some, hence the resulting modifications.
This type still has the same four-legged steel frame, but with a set of wheels in front replacing the ferrules. The user lifts the back of the back end of the frame, but unlike the standard walker, users can effortlessly move forward because of the wheels. At present, standard walkers can be fitted with wheels to change from standard and wheeled walkers. Also, note that some wheeled walkers have fixed wheels, making turning a bit of a hassle as users are still required to lift the device.
Traditional walkers design and size take up ample space when not being used. This predicament makes it difficult in storing and transporting the device. Hence, the development of folding walkers. The two folding mechanisms for this type of walker are the side folding frame and the hinged front leg.
This type of walker is designed to match the natural way of walking. The device is equipped with a pivot mechanism that enables the user to lift just one side of the frame and move it forward while the opposite side is still anchored on the ground. However, a shift to only one side of the body is apparent with frequent use of this device. For safety, consult with a practitioner if it is suitable for the patient.
Instead of a handgrip, this type of walker utilizes forearm support. This allows users to transfer their weight to their forearm rather than their wrists. This device is most helpful for patients with arthritis.
Rollators are sometimes called rolling walkers with a seat or walker wheelchair combos. This type of walker has swivelling wheels on all four legs. Although it might be easier to maneuver as compared to traditional walkers, this design poses a challenge with balancing. Rollators are excellent choices for patients with a good sense of balance, but have difficulty in lifting an object. It is also beneficial for those who need to seat often or require carrying equipment such as an oxygen tank. The best walker wheelchair combos for the elderly fit the convenience of a rollator walker and the security of a wheelchair in one device. It is also important to consider the extra features and accessories that come with it.
Other innovations have been made to the traditional walker. For instance, this modified walker enables the user to climb stairs. Fitted with spring-loaded and self-locking legs, the user can position the walker with the legs resting on different levels.
There are still many other modifications and improvements made to the traditional walker. Although these mobility aids provide benefits to the users, it is essential to note that there are risks of injury as well. It is still best to consult with your practitioner as to what device best fit your condition.