Using a walker takes practice
Many older adults use a folding walker to help them move around more safely and independently. But learning how to use a walker correctly takes some practice – the movements aren’t always intuitive.
First, it’s important to get it adjusted to correctly fit your senior’s height. Next, it’s critical to learn the right movements and some do’s and don’ts to stay safe. Using it incorrectly can actually increase fall risk or body aches.
We explain how to adjust a walker to the correct height, how to walk using the walker, and how to sit and stand safely with the walker.
Folding walker with wheels
Adjust the walker to the correct height
The walker should fit your older adult’s arms comfortably. This reduces stress on their shoulders and back as they use it.
If a physical therapist or healthcare professional is available to adjust the walker to fit your older adult, that’s the best option because they’re experts.
If you need to figure it out on your own, you’ll know it’s at the correct height when your older adult steps inside the walker and:
- With shoulders relaxed and hands on the grips, their elbows bend slightly at a comfortable angle (about 15 degrees).
- With arms relaxed at their sides, the top of the walker should line up with the crease on the inside of their wrist.
A correctly fitted folding walker
How to walk using a walker
These movements are the safest way to use a walker. It helps to try it out yourself before demonstrating and explaining to your older adult.
- Put the walker at arm’s length in front of you. Take the weight off your hands and gently push the walker forward.
- Use the handles of the walker for balance as you step forward with the weaker leg to the middle area of the walker. Don’t step all the way to the front. If both legs are of equal strength, then it doesn’t matter which one goes first.
- Push straight down on the walker handles as you step the other leg forward until it’s even with the first leg. Safety tip: Don’t push forward because that can cause the walker to slide unexpectedly.
How to safely sit or stand when using a walker
It’s critical that your older adult does NOT use the walker to help them sit or stand. Use the arms of a chair that won’t move or slide.
To sit down:
- Back up until legs touch the chair.
- Use your hands to feel behind for the seat of the chair or chair arms.
- Slowly lower into the chair, using the chair arms for support if needed.
Sit or stand up safely and correctly
To stand up:
- Hold the chair’s arms and push up using your arms.
- When standing, hold the walker’s handles.
- Don’t ever pull on or tilt the walker to help you stand up.
Wrong way to stand when using a walker – dangerous!
Do’s and don’ts for walker safety
- Stay upright to protect the back. Don’t hunch over!
- Look straight ahead when walking.
- Always step into the walker, rather than walking behind it.
- Change directions slowly, taking small steps.
- Push the walker too far in front.
- Put the handles too high.
- Try to climb stairs.
Like with anything new, using a walker takes some practice. They may need many gentle reminders, but your older adult’s safety and ability to get around independently will be worth the extra effort.
Recommended for you:
- 4 Simple Bathroom Safety Tips for Seniors
- Home Modifications for Seniors: A Room-by-Room Guide
- 7 Sources of Home Repair Assistance for Seniors
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