Independence in Senior Living: Walking the Best Way You Can

Which walking-support gives independence in senior living?

Many seniors crave independence, and they can achieve it, each to varying degrees. The idea that taking support, actually gives independence, might seem contradictory. However, sometimes, a compromise is the best way to go forwards!


Support gives Independence

Perhaps you are rehabilitating or being nursed back to health. You can find more out about walking for independence in senior living.

Which support enables a senior to be independent in their daily activities?

This article compares a few options: a relative holding your arm, a traditional walking cane, walking sticks and a wheeled walker.


Types of Support for independence in senior living


Walking Sticks or Walking Poles

These have been called “items of fashion”. Walking sticks help with balance and stability. They are useful for seniors who are functioning and are interested in walking for exercise.

If held and used correctly, a walking stick can:

  • Take pressure off the shoulder
  • Encourage the user to stand straighter
  • Strengthen the bicep muscle in the upper arm
  • Help the user gain a better posture
  • Promote walking with a natural stride

Using walking sticks for independence in senior living, is quite new. Therefore, it is not possible to say how far it can be helpful. However, you can read some anectodal evidence.

Medicare covers certain devices, for example, it covers devices for indoor use. However, it does not cover walking sticks.


Traditional Canes

Traditional canes give support by taking the weight of the user.

It can take the full weight of the person using it.

A cane can:

  • Come in different designs offering more support
  • Take weight on a regular basis
  • Be adjusted for height
  • Support seniors who have an unstable gait


Dr. Sara Bradley points out that seniors need to learn the correct way to use devices, just as hikers learn hiking techniques.  Otherwise, a senior could end up with unnecessary shoulder pains, instead of independence in senior living.


In Person Support

The advantages of a person holding your arm for support:

  • you can enjoy their company
  • no extra equipment is needed
  • positions are adjustable in response to a senior’s needs
  • it may give you a feeling of confidence.


If you are reliant on a person being available, it can limit your independence.

A qualified physical therapist must show the relative how to hold the arm. The position may differ depending on how much support is needed. As a result of correct instruction, falls can be prevented.

An in-between solution might be a gait-belt since the gait belt gives independence in walking. A companion can give support by holding on to the belt handles, if you feel insecure or unsteady.


Wheeled Walkers

There are many online resources with collections and comparisons of walkers. Medicare does cover the cost of some walkers, if they are medically needed and for indoor use.

Walkers provide:

  • solutions to balance and mobility issues
  • encourage maintaining an active lifestyle
  • you can match model/device to the build and needs of the user
  • option to choose lighter or sturdier models
  • use of a walker is quite flexible, adapting to different environments

There may be a limit to how much support a walker can give. Bearing down on the walker might not be safe for the senior. The device can become damaged if misused, for example by pushing the senior in it, instead of using a wheelchair.


Who Decides about this part of Independence in Senior Living?

A study analysed when seniors begin using support. Firstly, they found that seniors generally decide on their own to begin using a cane. Secondly, the study found that the cane substantially improved the balance for the seniors in the study. Thirdly, the seniors liked to choose the type of cane they would use.

A different study found that seniors preferred the simple cane over quadripod canes and walking sticks. They reported that a cane helped them walk well, and with a stable gait. Interestingly enough, the participants were most happy with the simple canes.


The Final Decision

To sum up the discussion, the decision will probably be balanced between:

  • your needs as a senior
  • financial points, and
  • availability of resources.

The most walking will be done by someone who is motivated! Do you want to know which device or arrangement will give that motivation? The answer is, of course, that it is unique to each person.

Seniors with motivation can really aim for independence in senior living! Each person has their own story, so, every step taken with independence, counts for seniors.


independence in senior living


Original Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

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