Moving Right Along

One of many mobility options

Exploring Mobility Options for Seniors.

There are many things to which we look forward as we age: the ability to spend less time working and more time with our families having fun; the ability to travel and see new sights; and the freedom to try out new hobbies we’ve never had time to explore.

But there also are some things about aging that can be a hardship, including the loss of our mobility. Whether due to age, illness or injury, loss of mobility can put a crimp in our plans for retirement and beyond. We take for granted the ability to get up and walk across the room – or to stand for longer periods of time – until we find we can no longer do either comfortably or safely.

When this happens, it may be time to explore mobility assistive options such as scooters, walkers and canes.

Knowing When to Seek Help

So, how do you know when it may be time to seek out assistance options for improving mobility issues? There are a number of signs that may indicate it’s time:

  • You find it difficult to keep your balance for normal amounts of time, such as long enough to complete grocery shopping or a walk around the block in your neighborhood.
  • Your legs feel weak or painful when standing unsupported for more than a few minutes at a time.
  • You struggle getting up from a seated or laying position, such as out of a chair or bed.
  • You fall frequently.
  • You’ve recently had surgery that has affected a joint or major muscle group that causes weakness or pain when standing or walking.
  • You are taking medication that affects balance and gait, or can cause muscle weakness.

If any of these six scenarios is happening to you on a regular basis, then it is time to discuss it with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause. If a specific illness or injury is causing your mobility issue, your medical provider will be able to discuss treatment options. Whether the condition you are experiencing is temporary or permanent, there is a mobility assistance option suited for your needs.

Types of Mobility Assistance

Depending on the difficulty you are experiencing, the kind of mobility assistance you will need can vary.

Canes are generally used by those who have weakness or pain in one leg and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Canes are most effective when used opposite of the leg experiencing the difficulty. So, if you have pain in your left leg, walk with the can supported in your right hand and vice versa. In addition to a standard cane, there also are triple and quad canes that can offer more stability and support than a standard cane.

The pros of using canes is that they are dependable and relatively inexpensive. Another pro is that Medicare will cover the cost of a cane if the patient has a prescription for it from a medical professional and purchased from a Medicare-certified medical equipment supplier. Canes range in price from $14 for basic models to as much as $80 for those with special features. The cons associated with canes is that they can get stuck on uneven pavement and cracks in sidewalks, and also can be responsible for causing repetitive strain injuries.

Walkers are similar in usage to canes, with the exception that they provide a little more stability because they are supporting both sides of the body evenly, which is a definite pro of using one. Traditional walkers are best used indoors since they have no wheels and can get caught on uneven surfaces that often are found outdoors. Basic walkers are ideal for those who need a little extra help.

Those who find it difficult to easily maneuver a basic walker, or who have injuries or medical conditions that make it problematic to safely use a basic walker, may want to consider a wheeled walker or rollator. Wheeled walkers have two wheels on the front. Rollators have wheels on all four legs. There also are four-wheeled walkers with seats that are ideal for those with medical conditions such as respiratory disease or congestive heart failure who may need to sit down frequently when walking.

The only cons about walkers, especially the wheeled kind, is that they can be pricey. Average price for a basic walker starts at $50 and can go as high as $150 for basic walkers that fold up for easy storage. Wheeled walkers and rollators start at $150 and can cost as much as $300 depending on the features included. As with canes, Medicare will cover the cost of walkers for those who have Part B coverage. Learn more here.

Mobility Scooters are ideal for those who are lacking in total body mobility or pain, either due to injury, illness or the normal decline that comes with aging. Mobility scooters can help prevent a sedentary lifestyle and provide seniors and boomers with the freedom and independence to continue living an active and healthy lifestyle.

The biggest pro of using a mobility scooter is that they can go pretty much anywhere and on any surface. The biggest con is the cost. Prices vary from $500 to more than $2,000 depending on the model and features. Mobility scooters also can be detrimental to your health if you become dependent on them. Overuse of mobility scooters can cause a decline in physical ability, making users even more dependent on them than they were prior to their usage.

As with the other assistive devices, Medicare will pay for mobility scooters through Part B coverage. As with the other mobility devices, you will need a prescription from your medical provider in order to get Medicare to cover part or all of the costs. Learn more about Medicare benefits for scooters here.

Do you have a mobility device that has made your life easier? We’d love to hear about your experiences and recommendations in the comment section.

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann

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2 responses on “Moving Right Along

  1. Joe Vosters

    Sure- but often a person’s worst mobility nightmare is just getting in/out of bed (and repositioning in bed). Based on the needs of my relations I invented an innovative bed mobility system that allows elderly/disabled people to remain safe, independent, and at home. It is the critical product keeping many people at home and in some cases their ticket out of a nursing home. Stay in your existing bed and get the mobility assistance you need. Please check out http://www.FriendlyBeds.com.

  2. Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS

    When considering medical equipment for Medicare patients, Medicare will only pay for the least costly equipment that will do the job. For example, if a senior is having mobility issues but are able to walk safely with a walker, Medicare will not pay for a scooter. Or if a cane is sufficient, Medicare will not pay for a walker. This is sometimes confusing to beneficiaries. I work as a custom wheelchair specialist and often deal with people who want a power chair but, really, all they qualify in the Medicare world is a rollator. Also, keep in mind, Medicare only considers mobility issues within the home. If an elderly person gets tired walking at the grocery store but can walk within the home, Medicare will not provide equipment for that need. Hope this is helpful!