Losing independence is perhaps one of the most frightening things about getting older or suffering an injury. Loss of mobility means relying on others for help with many basic tasks that we may otherwise take for granted. Whether the loss is permanent or only temporary, it can be frustrating to have to ask for help in situations where you have always done for yourself.
The use of a walking aid can help you to regain some of your former independence by providing you with the means to move around more easily.
Walking sticks provide added balance and allow you to take some of the weight off one side of your body as you walk. They can be single-pointed, cane style affairs, or more sturdy quad-footed sticks for better balance. These can be just enough to help those who are only slightly mobility impaired to get around by themselves.
Crutches are generally used for a temporary injury that requires the weight to be taken off one leg. They nestle under the armpits with padded rests and allow the user to swing their body through on every alternate step, so one leg is always off the ground.
In the case of injury to both legs or hips, severe rheumatism, or other illness which means both legs are out of action or when recovering from an operation, a wheelchair may be the solution. There are three main types of a wheelchair – attendant propelled, manual, and electric.
Attendant-propelled chairs are used mainly in hospitals or for those who require wheelchair use for only a short time, as the user cannot move around but must rely on others to push them. Manual or self-propelled chairs allow the user to turn the wheels by hand and move around that way. Electric chairs have a motor and the user can navigate using a joystick.
The flat-based type of walking frame is perhaps more commonly known as a zimmer frame. These provide a lot more support than sticks or canes but require the user to use upper body strength to move the frame forward. They are usually made from lightweight aluminum and most will fold up conveniently when not in use.
A mobility scooter is equivalent to an electric wheelchair but designed more like a moped or electric scooter. They are generally designed for outdoor use and most people who use one would also have a walking stick or frame for use in the home.