Many seniors use walkers to assist them to remain stable while walking.
This helps them to keep their independence and maintain wellness through walking.
Walkers will help prevent falls which can literally be deadly.
The most common walker has a seat width of 12 inches with a weight capacity of 250 pounds.
A bariatric walker has a seat width of 18 inches with a weight capacity of 400 pounds.
New walkers have a lightweight aluminum frame. Weight is important when you are lifting it up onto a curb or lifting it in and out of a car trunk.
Both wire baskets and vinyl pouches are available.
If you have a wire basket you must remove it each time whereas the vinyl pouch folds with the walker.
It is important that the walker fits your height.
Stand up as straight as possible between the handlebars of the frame with your knees relaxed and your feet flat on the floor.
Your wrists should be at the same height as the handles of the walker.
If your wrists are not in line with the handles then adjust the frame up or down by unscrewing the knobs on both sides of the handlebars.
When turning to sit down on the walker for a rest always lock the brakes first.
Rotate between the handle bars putting one hand over the other hand while still holding onto the walker. Sit down carefully.
When sitting on the walker sit up straight with you feet flat on the floor.
Do not put all of your weight against the back bar. This is designed to be a safety bar and not a backrest.
The new style wheels are foam filled and last longer than air filled wheels.
A good wheel will be six inches in diameter and one inch wide.
A quality walker will have a loop brake cable on both sides of the frame that connects from the wheel to the handle.
It will also have a detachable padded back safety bar and a well cushioned seat that are designed for taking a rest while out for a walk. Remember that walkers are an aid for walking. They are not designed for or meant to be a replacement for wheelchairs.
Check the walker on a regular basis to ensure that the wheels are clean and spinning and rotating freely.
The wheel bearing should also roll freely.
The tires should be firm with no flat spots. The brakes should be tested to ensure that they lock firmly against the tires.
The tires should not move when the brakes are against them.
If the tires can move then the brake cable may need to be tightened or replaced. Purchase the best walker that you can afford. It will cost you less in the long run as it will last longer and require less repairs and maintenance.
Look for one that has a warranty and purchase it from a store that can supply replacement parts.
If you purchase a quality walker and properly maintain it then it will serve you well for many years.
(Thank you to Ed Stang at CanAm Mobility for sharing his knowledge on walkers.)
Sharen Marteny is a services consultant for seniors in Kelowna.