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Walking Aids for the Elderly: Tips & Types

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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According to a UK government survey, 64% of people aged 65 or over have a mobility-related disability.

That’s not surprising, given that so many medical conditions affecting older people impact their mobility in one way or another. For example, arthritis in the hip, knee, ankle or foot can cause stiffness and pain when walking. Parkinson’s disease also causes stiffness, as well as tremors. And oedema can make legs feel heavy and difficult to move.

For elderly people with these conditions and numerous others, walking aids make a huge difference to daily life. Aids like walking sticks and various types of walkers can help improve a senior’s stability and potentially provide a seat whenever it’s needed. They can also prevent falls, which are especially risky for the elderly.

In this article, we’ll explore some of these varieties of walking aids – and offer some tips about getting help with mobility supports from your council.

General tips about walking aids

It’s essential that a senior’s walking aid is well suited to their needs and abilities. A walking stick or walker that isn’t quite right could even end up doing more harm than good.

Firstly, it’s crucial to choose a walker or stick that’s the correct height for its user. The walking aid should also be appropriate for its user’s weight and strength. As walking sticks might be differently shaped for the left and right hands, you’ll want to get a stick that matches the hand that will use it. You may want to ask a medical professional about what type of walking aid would be best for you.

It’s also important to consider how much portability you need from your walking aid. Some walking aids fold up conveniently, while others are somewhat large and don’t fold at all.

You should think about where you want to use the walking aid and what mobility needs it’s intended to support. For example, a walking aid that’s great for walking down the high street might not work as well on grass. And a walking aid that’s meant to support with balance might be designed differently from one that’s mainly intended to ease pain with walking.

Lastly, consider whether you’d like your walking aid to feature a seat where you can take a break if needed.

Walking sticks

Seniors who need a little extra help with mobility might opt for a walking stick to help with pain or just make walking less daunting. There are many different features you can choose for your stick, including:

  • Wood or metal material
  • Traditional straight design or a three- or four-footed base design, which offers more stability
  • Folding features, including a foldaway seat or a stick that folds.

Walking frames or walkers

The next step up from a walking stick is a walker or walking frame. Unlike a stick, which is held in just one hand, a walker is a metal frame designed to be held with both hands. This provides more support – and if you need to carry items with you, walkers may have places where you can keep possessions such as purses or shopping bags.

Within the larger category of walkers, there are again a lot of different features and styles available. Perhaps the biggest choice you’ll have to make about your walker is whether or not it has wheels. In fact, a walker with wheels is often called a rollator…


A rollator is a three- or four-legged walking frame that has wheels on every leg. It’s designed to be pushed and rolled along rather than picked up.

Rollators very often include a seat in their design. That’s immensely handy for older people who become fatigued or in pain and need to rest while they’re out and about.

Rollators may also include baskets or hooks for carrying items with you.

It’s important to note that rollators are not meant to be used by people who need to lean heavily on them for balance. Their wheeled design means that if they’re used for balance, they could easily roll forward and cause their user to fall.

Zimmer frames

Zimmer is actually a brand of walking frame, but the term ‘Zimmer frame’ is also used to refer to walkers in general. Zimmer frames are different from rollators because they have either no wheels or wheels on just two feet – not on all feet.

Because of this, Zimmer frames are used differently from rollators. Typically, the user picks up and puts down the Zimmer frame with each step forward, in the same way that they would pick up and put down a walking stick as they walk.

This means that Zimmer frames are not ideal for older people who will struggle to pick up the weight of the frame. However, they do provide more solid and reliable support for older people who need help with balancing.

A Zimmer frame with no wheels is typically seen as ideal for use inside the home. In contrast, a rollator is more often seen both indoors and out.

How your local council can help

On this blog, we often talk about the importance of getting all help that’s available to support seniors. In fact, local councils can help seniors with mobility difficulties in a few ways.

Home assessments

While walking aids like sticks and walkers can help with mobility, they’re not the end of the story. Home adaptations like grab bars in an adapted bathroom can also contribute to keeping older people safe and protected from falls.

A home assessment from your local council can determine what other aids might be suitable to an older person with mobility difficulties. Someone from the council will come and walk around the senior’s home, asking about difficulties involved in using every part of the home.

If the home assessment shows that an older person does need some home adaptations or equipment, the council may help to pay for them up to the sum of £1,000.

Just enter your postcode on the UK government website to find out how to apply for home equipment in your area.

Falls risk assessments

As we’ve mentioned, falls are a serious risk to the elderly – and they are more likely to occur for seniors who have mobility difficulties. That’s why it may be wise to seek a falls risk assessment from your GP or a falls prevention service in your area. This assessment is designed to prevent falls by anticipating how they might occur.

Protecting seniors with SureSafe

Walking aids, home assessments and falls risk assessments can all play a part in protecting a senior from the risk of falls.

However, there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of falls or other emergencies. That’s why it’s smart to obtain a personal alarm for the elderly, which helps an older person get help fast when they need it.

Elderly personal alarms can come in the form of wrist alarms or talking pendants. Either way, they typically offer one-touch alarm buttons, which trigger a call for help when they’re touched. This functionality is crucial for moments when a senior has fallen and can’t get to a phone – or if an older person is having an emergency and isn’t mobile enough to get to a phone fast.

If a personal alarm also features fall detection, that’s even better. Alarms with fall detection can sense when their wearer has fallen and call for help all on their own – even if the wearer is unconscious.

SureSafe is a leading provider of personal alarms in the UK, with a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot. We’re experts in keeping older people safe from falls, and we’d be happy to talk with you if you’re curious to know more about how personal alarms can help you. Just call us at 0808 189 1671, get in touch with us online through our live chat, or simply request a call back.

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