Are older people putting themselves at risk of falling when using a walking frame?
Using a Smart Walker system we previously developed for assessment of stability of walking frame use, this project trialled the Smart Walker system in laboratory and home settings. The project’s primary aim was to characterize use of a front-wheeled frame and to quantify how stable older people are when using such frame, in order to establish a set of benchmark data on usage patterns and associated user stability. The projects secondary aim was to involve users and healthcare professionals in form of focus groups and through questionnaires.
The work revealed that in their own home users often do not adhere to clinical guidance on how to safely use a front-wheeled walking frame. Lifting of such frame, which is generally being advised against, was observed when users crossed door thresholds or carpet edges where wheels can get stuck, as well as during turning because the front-wheels of the frame are fixed and cannot swivel. Stability analysis of the user-frame system showed that the stability margin, which indicates how close the system is to the point of tipping over, was reduced at such times. The project concluded that current clinical guidance and device design should be improved to better facilitate stabile usage patterns during performance of more challenging walking tasks in the home. The associated publication can be downloaded here.
Funding: Dunhill Medical Trust Project (2017-2018)