A cane is usually the most basic walking aid for most seniors and elderly. When most people think of a cane, they tend to think of a wooden hook shaped cane like their grandfather had. But there are many more options to consider when searching for the best walking canes for seniors and elderly. There are other shapes, bases, and features of canes that are important for improving mobility. Keep on reading to learn more about these options.
Before learning about the best walking canes for seniors, it is important to really understand how a cane is used. Often, I see people who are using canes incorrectly. Other times, I see people using canes who should probably be using a wheeled walker or even a rollator with a seat. The reason is often they refuse to use a wheelchair even if it's the best option.
The proper use for a cane is just to help maintain balance. A cane should never be used for weight bearing or for full support of the body. People who hold onto furniture when waking at home usually benefit from using a cane. Also, people who have a foot that drags from a stroke or injury could benefit from cane.
Most canes are adjustable in height to fit seniors of varied heights. Some use a simple metal push button and others use a clamp. A cane that is too high causes shoulder pain. Smaller people should not use a cane that is too tall. But, a cane that is too low causes the senior to bend over too far which hurts the back.
When a cane is adjusted properly, there is a slight bend in the elbow with the user standing nearly straight up. For most seniors, setting the cane so that the handle is just below the hip joint is about right.
Yes, it does matter what hand the cane is held in. The cane is held in the hand ON THE OPPOSITE side of the injured or weak leg. And here is why.
In the typical human walking pattern, the left arm swings out as the right foot steps and vice-versa. This is how we humans maintain our balance. So, holding a walking cane in the hand that is on the opposite side of the injury, allows seniors and the elderly better control of their balance.
After getting the cane in the right, er, correct hand, the user should just walk normally. If the senior finds themselves putting weight on the cane or cannot keep a normal walking gait, a different mobility aid is probably needed. Also, If both legs are injured or weak, a walker or rollator is usually more appropriate. Sometimes wheelchairs or even power wheelchairs are the safest choice.
Walking canes come in many types, styles, and forms. Probably many more than you realize. It is also important to know the differences between walking canes and walking sticks. Some types of walking canes have specific functions while others are also designed to look good or more stylish. Here is a quick rundown of some of the types of walking canes:
Advantages: Least expensive, lots of choices in both design and style
Disadvantages: only for mild balance problems, weight distributed on a single point
Advantages: Weight distributed on multiple points, able to stand on their own
Disadvantage: Not a lot of style choice, a little heavier than other canes
Advantages: inexpensive, distributes weight directly over cane tip, lots of options
Disadvantages: only for mild balance problems
Advantages: folds for easy storage and carrying, lightweight
Disadvantages: Requires good hand control to be able to fold and put together
Photos courtesy of Drive Medical
A standard walking cane is the basic cane most seniors are familiar with. These are simply a support rod made of wood or steel usually with a curved or straight handle at the top. The cheapest canes are wooden ones but they are usually not adjustable in height.
There are many different handle styles for standard canes. Most, though, are classified as either a curved handle or a straight handle. Many doctors and therapists prefer a straight handled cane because it matches better with the hand angle while walking. A straight handle is more ergonomic than a curved handle.
The offset handle is a variation of the standard cane. With an offset walking cane, the cane bends like a swan neck before the handle. This distributes the senior's weight over the cane tip for better balance. Like the standard cane above, there are many styles, colors and designs to choose from.
A quad base cane is a walking cane with a wider base. On this wider base are 4 cane tips that make contact with the ground. Because the base is wide and has more points of contact with the ground, it is more stable than the other types of walking canes. So, the quad cane is designed for seniors and elderly who need a little more balance support than standard canes offer. Find the best quad canes here.
The folding cane has recently improved in popularity. This type of walking cane is collapsible and will fit into a purse or bag. It is easy to store and take with seniors so it is always available when needed.
Folding canes work like tent poles. The cane itself is made up of several smaller segments that fit together. An elastic cord runs up through the middle of the cane which keeps the pieces together. To use the folding cane, simply push the smaller pieces back together. To store it, the pieces easily pull apart and fold up.
Special canes like these are not usually provided under Medicare benefits.
Recently, there have been several improvements on the design and engineering of canes. Some designs have improved the support and function of a walking cane. Others add bells, whistles, and gizmos like lights and alarms. Some canes have very unique styling and are marketed specifically for men or for women.
Choosing the best walking cane for a senior is really based on 2 factors:
Question 1 should be easy for you to answer now. Question 2 is a bit more subjective. When making the recommendations below, I looked for the best walking canes that were a combination of function, quality, and also had several options for stylish seniors.
For a more basic type of cane, I really like the Nova Offset Handle Designer Cane series. These are the best walking canes for seniors who need a little balance help and also like to show a little style. The Nova walking canes come in 31 fun colors and designs. There is 11" in height adjustment so this cane will fit most any senior. It is also lightweight and easy to use. The soft foam handle is easy and comfortable to grip. Not to bad for a cane that costs under $20.00!
As I discussed above, the main advantage of a quad cane is that they are the best walking canes for seniors who need a little extra balance. But, they also tend to be heavier than other canes. The Vive adjustable quad cane, though, is lightweight weighing just under 2 lbs. Another problem with quad canes is that they are handed meaning it matters if the user is left or right handed. But Vive has taken care of that problem too. Their base is reversible so it fits right or left handed seniors.
I'll bet you have seen the infomercials for the HurryCane. These commercials were a staple of late night TV for a while. The HurryCane is now owned by Drive Medical and is available on a wider scale. It now claims to the most popular cane in America.
This walking cane has a tripod shaped base with a flexible joint where it meets the end of the cane. The joint allows the cane to pivot on the base which keeps it in contact with the ground longer while walking. This leads to better balance support during the full stride. Because of this the HurryCane is the best walking cane for seniors who use a cane outdoors as well.
Here is a quick video showing how the HurryCane works:
In addition to the stabilizing benefits, the HurryCane has other convenience features too. First, it stands on its own so it is always ready to go. It has a hand strap to prevent it from being dropped while used. Finally, it folds up for easy travel and storage.
I am a bit of a tech nerd so I really like the features of this walking cane. There is a very real advantage to having a light on a cane. As I mentioned in my article about fall prevention, not having a light on at night is a factor of many falls. This cane has a bright, LED light built into the handle that is always ready. This is the best walking cane for seniors who are out after dark or who get up a lot during the night.
The cane also has a wider base for better support and balance and that also allows it to stand on its own. It even folds up for easy travel and storage. The only negative I see is that the height adjustment is only 5" so this cane is best used for seniors who are between 5'3" and 6'0".
Switch Sticks folding walking canes are a fun product and are the best walking canes for seniors who are young at heart. These folding canes come in 19 creative colors and patterns so that users can express themselves a little. If they have to use a cane, might as well be one that they like.
These folding canes also come with a wood handle that matches the cane. A hand strap is included to reduce the chance of the cane getting dropped. A latex band is also part of the package to keep it folded securely while being carried or stored.
Have you had any experiences with a walking cane you would like to share? How about a recommendation of your own! Please feel free to share or ask questions in the comments below and I'll get back to you quickly!
I work daily with seniors and the elderly in my position as a wheelchair specialist at a home medical company. I see the struggle they have maintaining their independence and living their daily lives. Most are completely unaware of the options and products out there that can improve their independence, mobility, and safety in their home. I created this site to help seniors, elders, and their caregivers make smart buying decisions about the many independent living aids on the market.
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