Use of Smart Walkers to investigate effects of walking frame height and width on walking stability – a pilot study questioning the status quo
This project aimed to investigate, in a group of older adults that are users of walking frames, effects of frame height settings on body weight loading onto the frame and stability during walking with the frame. We asked the primary research question: “Does the height setting on a walking frame affect device loading and user-frame system stability?”. Second, we investigated the effect of walking frame width on stability and asked: “Does a slim/narrow frame, as compared to standard-width walking frame, compromise stability?”
The project concluded that simply adjusting the frame height to a lower setting does not work as a means to increase stability through increased body weight transfer. However, increased body weight transfer does result in increased stability, hence actively encouraging this behaviour may be suggested to those users that are at risk of, or have a history of falling when using their device. Narrow frames, whilst of advantage in tight spaces, are to be prescribed and used with caution as they decrease stability as compared to walking with a standard-width frame. Finally, lifting of the frame should be discouraged as it reduces stability, and industry should consider redesign of the front-wheeled walker to better enable performance of everyday tasks including turning. The associated publication can be requested here.
Funding: Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust Project (2018)