Older Adults’ Use of Mobility Devices is on the Rise
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Although the use of mobility devices such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters is on the rise, using the devices doesn’t increase the incidence of falls for those who use such devices when compared to those who don’t, say the results of a study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Such findings are particularly important for mobility device users who may limit their physical activity because they’re worried about falls.
Using data collected through the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a team of researchers analyzed interview responses from 7,609 community-dwelling Medicare recipients over the age of 65. The researchers learned that 24% of survey respondents used a mobility device in 2011, and of these respondents 9.3% reported using multiple devices.
The researchers discovered that using one device or multiple mobility devices did not increase older adults’ risks for falls when compared to those who do not use devices. They also learned that people who said they relied on canes in particular to aid their mobility tended to limit their activity due to worrying about falling compared to people who used other mobility devices.
“Devices such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs should enhance, not hinder, your mobility when used correctly,” said lead study author Dr. Nancy Gell, Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science at the University of Vermont in Burlington.
Being active is vital for staying healthy and maintaining your mobility. And for many people, a cane is the right tool for their circumstances and provides enough support to remain active. “But if you worry about falling when you’re using a cane, and if that worry limits your activity, it’s worth considering using another device so that you can stay as active as possible,” Dr. Gell says.
Some people may find that using different devices in different situations is a good solution. “For example, a person may be comfortable using a cane at home, but would feel more confident outside with a more supportive device, such as a walker,” Dr. Gell concluded.
Additionally, getting properly fitted and trained for using a mobility device doesn’t take a lot of time, but doing so can make all the difference in your comfort, confidence, and safety. “Although people can obtain certain devices without a prescription or input from a health care provider, it’s worth taking the steps to have the device sized appropriately and to receive instruction in its safe use,” said Dr. Gell.
This summary is from “Mobility device use among older adults and incidence of falls and worry about falling: Findings from the 2011-2012 National Health and Aging Trends Study.” It appears online ahead of print in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study was authored by Dr. Nancy M. Gell, Dr. Robert B. Wallace, Dr. Andrea Z. LaCroix, Dr. Tracy M. Mroz, and Dr. Kushang V. Patel.