Gain Independence: Choosing the Best Mobility Aids for Seniors

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Losing your mobility can be devastating to your quality of life. But, there are many mobility aids that can help. Use this list of the top mobility aids for the elderly then have a conversation with your doctor about your needs.

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Best Mobility Aids for Seniors

As we age, our mobility can decrease, making it difficult to get around. When this happens, it’s essential to consider different mobility devices to help you get around more easily.

With so many options available, knowing which is best for your personal needs can take a lot of work. 

As a mobility equipment specialist with nearly 20 years of experience helping people find suitable mobility devices, I am here to help.

I look forward to sharing my expertise with you to help you make an informed decision so that you can enjoy a better quality of daily life.

Mobility aids are essential because they provide independence and added safety to those who have difficulty getting around.

They can help with everyday activities such as walking, standing, and transferring from one place to another. Mobility aids also provide support and stability, which can help reduce the significant risk of falls. 

Disclosure: Before purchasing and using any mobility equipment, you should consult with your medical professional to ensure it is safe for you to use. Your doctor can provide expert advice on the correct type of device and any special instructions or precautions you should take when using it. They will also ensure that you are trained on using the device correctly and safely.

Walking Aids For the Elderly

Older adults may need a walking assistance device due to age-related muscle strength, balance, and endurance declines. Walking aids range from canes and walkers to rollators and specialty walkers.

Each walking aid has benefits and drawbacks. Seniors should consider their needs and lifestyle when selecting the best walking aid.

group of seniors using canes as walking aids while walking in the park
Walking canes are an entry-level walking aid and help with weight-bearing activities.

Canes

A cane is typically a single-pointed metal or wood device that provides extra balance and increased stability while walking. Canes are most commonly used to support weight-bearing activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and standing.

They can also offer independent mobility by allowing seniors to walk longer distances. Canes can be customized to the user’s height and weight specifications, which helps ensure a comfortable fit.

To safely use a cane, you should never lean on the handle, which might cause the cane to slip. All you need to do is hold it firmly in your hand and let it help balance you.

Additionally, you should use the cane on the opposite side of the body from the weak or injured leg. For example, if the left leg is weaker, you should hold the cane in the right hand.

Types of Walking Canes

Canes come in several types (even with built-in lights!):

  • Standard canes have a single shaft with a rubber tip and curved or straight handles on top.
  • Offset canes have an “L” shaped handle that helps to promote an upright posture and provide more stability than a straight cane.
  • Quad canes have four tips that provide better stability and balance than a single-point cane. They are ideal for those with more severe balance issues.
  • Folding canes collapse for more accessible storage and transport.
  • Telescoping canes feature adjustable handles and shafts that can be extended or shortened, making them ideal for people who need to adjust their cane for multiple users.
  • Walking sticks come in various materials and designs and offer a stylish option for users. They are also great for hiking, providing more stability on uneven terrain.

Advantages of Canes:

  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Can be customized to fit the user’s height and weight specifications
  • Provides balance and stability while walking
  • Allows seniors to walk longer distances with greater mobility and independence

Disadvantages of Canes:

  • Can be less stable than other walking aids
  • May not provide enough support for those with more severe mobility issues
  • Does not provide the same level of comfort as other walking aids

Additional Cane Resources:


senior woman using a standard walker as a waking aid supported by a senior man
Walkers are used to help with weakness and balance issues.

Walkers

A mobility walker consists of a frame with four legs and a handlebar to be used by those who need extra stability when walking. Seniors often use it with weakened muscles, balance issues, or difficulty walking long distances.

Mobility walkers adjust to different heights to accommodate the user and quickly fold for easy storage and transport. You can also customize them with accessories such as baskets, seats, and trays to make them more user-friendly.

Walkers with wheels provide seniors additional support and stability while allowing them to move faster. The wheels make the walker easier to push and maneuver, so they are ideal for seniors who have difficulty picking up the walker or walking long distances. 

Using a Walker Safely

To safely use a walker for mobility purposes, it is vital to ensure that the walker is adjusted to the correct height for the user, is positioned correctly, and that the wheels are properly locked in place.

The user must be able to reach the handlebars comfortably.

When using the walker, the user should keep their back straight, head up, and shoulders back. They should also stand close to the walker, keeping a firm grip on the handlebars.

When turning, the user should pivot their feet and turn the walker in the desired direction. Finally, always use the brakes when stopping a rolling walker if it is so equipped.

Types of Walkers

Walkers come in various styles to suit the personal needs of the user:

  • Standard walkers feature four legs with rubber tips and no wheels.
  • Wheeled walkers also have four legs and wheels, usually on the front two legs.
  • Rollator walkers have four wheels, a seat, and a basket or tray. They are ideal for those who need to take breaks while walking or need to transport items with them.
  • Heavy-duty walkers feature larger frames, wider bases, and larger wheels for heavier users or maximum stability.

Pros of Walkers and Rolling Walkers:

  • Provide extra support and stability
  • Can be adjusted to different heights to accommodate the user
  • Can be folded for easy storage and transport
  • Wheels on rolling walkers make them easier to push and maneuver
  • Provide a comfortable handlebar for a firm grip

Cons of Walkers and Rolling Walkers:

  • May not be suitable for all terrain
  • May not provide enough support and stability for those with severe mobility issues
  • Can be challenging to maneuver in tight spaces
  • May not fit through some doorways

Additional Walker Resources:


hemi side walker on white background
Hemi-walkers are designed to support one side of the body only.

Hemi-Walkers

A Hemi-walker is a type of walker and cane hybrid designed specifically for seniors with mobility problems affecting only one side of their body or the other.

The Hemi-walker is intended to be lightweight and easy to maneuver and also adjusts to different heights while folding for easy transportation.

Hemi-walkers have become the must-have assistive device for people with a stroke because they provide extra support and stability on the affected side.

The Hemi-walker also helps seniors stand up from a sitting position, provides balance, and offers stability while climbing stairs or navigating uneven surfaces. 


Person using a knee walkerr with a cast boot on their foot
Knee walkers are temporary walking aid for use with injuries or after surgery.

Knee Walkers

Knee scooters (aka knee walkers) are mobility devices that provide temporary, padded support for individuals with lower limb injuries. They are lightweight, adjustable devices that support the injured leg while the individual moves around.

They are commonly used following ankle or foot surgery to promote healing and allow for increased mobility. 

A knee walker is a better option for individuals who need temporary assistance while recovering from an injury and is not a solution for long-term mobility problems or people with knee problems. 

Additional Walker Resources:


elderly woman using a rollator walker walkind aid
Rollators are walkers with four wheels and a seat that provides a resting place when fatigue sets in.

Rollators or Walkers with Seats

A rollator walker is a four-wheeled walking aid with a seat, brakes, and a storage basket or tray for carrying items. It is designed to provide the ability to take breaks while walking because of the built-in seat.

Like most walking aids, it is height adjustable and folds for portability. It is an ideal device for seniors who need more support than a standard walker can offer.

Three Wheels or Four?

Rollators come in three-wheeled or four-wheeled configurations.

Three-wheeled rollators are the most maneuverable and are best suited for indoor use only. They are great for navigating tight spaces and fold for easy storage. But they are less stable.

Four-wheeled rollators are sturdier and offer more stability. They are great for outdoor use and on varied terrain. But, they may not navigate as well in small homes.

Both rollators allow seniors to take breaks while walking and transport items.

Advantages of Rollator Walkers Compared to Standard Walkers:

  • Offer more stability and support
  • Comes with an integrated seat for resting
  • Folds for easy transport and storage
  • Basket/tray for carrying items

Disadvantages of Rollator Walkers Compared to Standard Walkers:

  • More expensive than standard walkers
  • May not be suitable for all terrain
  • May not provide enough support and stability for those with severe mobility issues
  • Can be challenging to maneuver in tight spaces
  • May not fit through some doorways

Additional Rollator Resources:


Wheeled Mobility Aids

If weight-bearing becomes unsafe or impossible, seniors may find it challenging to use traditional walking aids safely and may need to progress to using safer wheeled mobility products.

Wheeled mobility devices such as wheelchairs, scooters, and powered wheelchairs provide better stability and safety features for those with limited mobility. 

elderly man using a manual wheelchair mobility aid with his grandson
Manual wheelchairs can be used independently or pushed by caregivers.

Manual Wheelchairs

A manual wheelchair is a chair with two large wheels, a seat, and armrests that is powered by the user’s arms and hands.

The manual wheelchair helps seniors with mobility issues by allowing them to move more efficiently throughout their environment using their upper body instead of their lower body.

It helps them remain independent and maintain some mobility and activity level.

Manual wheelchairs can be customized to fit the user’s needs, such as adjustable armrests, footrests, and backrests. They are also lightweight, making them easier to transport.

Advantages of Manual Wheelchairs Compared to Walking Aids:

  • Provide more stability, comfort, and support
  • Allow for greater mobility and independence
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Can be customized to fit the user’s specific needs

Disadvantages of Manual Wheelchairs Compared to Walking Aids:

  • More expensive than walking aids
  • May not be suitable for all terrain
  • Requires upper body strength to propel them
  • May not maneuver well in small spaces
  • May not fit through some doorways

Additional Wheelchair Resources:


elderly man being pushed in a transport wheelchair mobility aid by a caregiver
Transport wheelchairs have small wheels and are pushed by caregivers but are easy to transport.

Transport Wheelchairs

A transport wheelchair is a lightweight and collapsible wheelchair designed to be moved from place to place. Its main difference from a manually propelled wheelchair is that a caregiver pushes it instead of the user.

The frame of a transport chair folds for portability and storage. The chair’s weight is usually significantly less than the standard manually propelled wheelchair, reducing the strain on caregivers.

Transport wheelchairs often have wider seating and higher backrests for better support and comfort.

Advantages of Transport Chairs Compared to Manual Wheelchairs:

  • Lightweight and collapsible for easy transport and storage
  • Wider seats and higher backrests for better support and comfort
  • Reduced strain on the caregiver due to its lightweight frame
  • Folds for portability and storage

Disadvantages of Transport Chairs Compared to Manual Wheelchairs:

  • More expensive than standard manual wheelchairs
  • May not be suitable for all terrain
  • Requires assistance from a caregiver to move and transport
  • Might not maneuver well in cramped spaces

Additional Transport Chair Resources:


elderly man using a scooter mobility aid with his granddaughter on his lap
Scooters mainly provide outdoor mobility and access to the community for elderly people with mobility problems.

Scooters

A mobility scooter is a powered mobility device that typically has three or four wheels, with a seat for the user and handlebars for controlling the scooter’s direction and speed.

Mobility scooters are ideal for seniors or those with physical disabilities because they provide independence and portability and allow them to remain active in their community.

The mobility scooter can help seniors travel to the store, visit friends and family, and even explore their local area. Additionally, they provide a safe and comfortable way to get around while reducing the risk of falls.

Scooters can be disassembled without tools to fit into a car or other vehicle. This portability makes them an excellent option for seniors or people with disabilities who must travel frequently.

The heaviest piece is usually around 30 pounds. Additionally, many scooters are equipped with a folding seat, allowing them to be even more compact when not in use. 

Three Wheels or Four?

The critical difference between 3-wheeled and 4-wheeled mobility scooters is the number of wheels and how that affects balance and maneuverability.

Three-wheeled scooters are more maneuverable and can turn in tighter spaces. 

In contrast, four-wheeled scooters are more stable and provide better overall support. Because of this, four-wheeled scooters are generally the safest option. 

Advantages of Mobility Scooters Compared to Wheelchairs:

  • Provide greater mobility and independence
  • Greater range and speed for longer distances
  • More comfortable and adjustable seating
  • Can be used both indoors and outdoors

Disadvantages of Mobility Scooters Compared to Wheelchairs:

  • More expensive than wheelchairs
  • Can be difficult for seniors with balance problems to get on and off
  • May require additional accessories for outdoor use
  • Can be difficult to transport due to its size and weight
  • May require regular maintenance and repairs

Additional Scooter Resources:


power wheelchair mobility aid on display in a medical equipment store
Power wheelchairs can be used indoors and outdoors, are easier to get in and out of, and are controlled by joysticks.

Power Wheelchairs

A power wheelchair is a wheelchair that is powered by batteries and controlled with a joystick mounted on one arm of the chair.

Power wheelchairs provide the user with greater mobility, allowing them to go places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.

It has a seat similar to those found in vans with high backs and vinyl upholstery, but there are also seats with lower backs.

The power wheelchair also has adjustable seat heights and leg rests, adjustable backrests, and adjustable armrests to ensure the user is comfortable.

Power wheelchairs also provide excellent stability and maneuverability over manual wheelchairs, making them a great choice for those who need additional support.

Advantages of Power Chairs Compared to Manual Wheelchairs:

  • More powerful motor for increased mobility and maneuverability
  • Greater range and speed for longer distances
  • More comfortable and adjustable seating
  • Can be used both indoors and outdoors
  • Can be operated with a joystick or touchpad controller

Disadvantages of Power Chairs Compared to Manual Wheelchairs:

  • More expensive than manual wheelchairs
  • Heavier and more difficult to transport
  • Requires regular maintenance and battery charging
  • Can be challenging to maneuver in small rooms

Additional Walker Resources:


How to Choose Mobility Aids for Seniors

Choosing a suitable mobility device is an important decision that can significantly improve the quality of life for a person with mobility issues.

Mobility devices provide greater independence and freedom, allowing users to be more active and engaged in their daily lives.

Here’s what you should consider.

1. Consider the user’s needs

Think about the user’s lifestyle and mobility difficulties. On what type of terrain will they be using the device? Can they stand for long periods, or do they need support? 

2. Discuss with a doctor or therapist 

A doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist can provide insight into which device best suits the user’s needs.

3. Think about safety devices

Make sure the device is safe for the user before purchasing it. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

4. Consider the user’s lifestyle

Do they stay home or like to go into the community frequently? Do they have a lot of room to store their device? Are they able to take it with them when they travel? Do they need a device that they can use indoors and outdoors?

5. Consider the user’s budget

How much are you willing to spend on a mobility device? Are any particular features important to you (such as adjustable features)?

6. Take measurements

If you need help determining which mobility device is best for the user, take their measurements and compare them to the measurements of different devices. Measure the rooms and doorways where you will use them.

7. Test it out 

Many mobility device stores offer test drives, allowing the user to experience the device before making a purchase.

8. Look for accessories 

Many devices come with accessories, such as baskets and covers, that can make the device more comfortable and functional.

9. Read reviews

Read reviews of the device you’re considering to get an idea of how other users have found the device.

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Infographic: Best Mobility Aids for Seniors

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We hope this discussion of the different types of mobility aids for the eldelry helped you better understand this technical topic. If so, please share this post with your friends on your favorite social media.

If you have questions or any additional comments, please leave them for our mobility experts in the comments below!

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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1 thought on “Gain Independence: Choosing the Best Mobility Aids for Seniors”

  1. Have you seen the Whill i? It comes apart for transport. I understand in 2021 they will have a model approved by medicare.

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