Common complaints associated with walking frames for older people could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the residents at dementia care specialist, Belong Crewe, who are helping a team of academics and their partner, NRS Healthcare, with the development of a pioneering prototype set to revolutionise the traditional two-wheel walker.
Researchers from the University of Salford and NRS Healthcare designers joined forces with Belong’s Brookhouse Drive care village to better understand the biomechanics of adults using walking frames. The aim is to eliminate the need for users to pick up the walking aid – sometimes called ‘Zimmer frames with front wheels’ – in order to cross raised door and carpet thresholds, as well as when changing direction.
Zoe Robson, Lead Exercise Specialist at Belong, explains more: “Traditional walking frames available haven’t evolved to meet the needs of older people. Picking the frame up to turn is not an option for everyone and those who can are at an increased risk of accidents, so we’re very pleased to be able to facilitate the development of a new version for safer turning, which is backed by science.”
Belong’s residents have participated in the creation of prototypes, testing out and providing feedback at each stage of development. The result is an innovative walking frame, with a change in wheel dimensions combined with a novel mechanism to enable a smooth walking experience which avoids the need to pick the frame up. It is also specially designed to prevent the aid unintentionally running sideways.
The project is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership which is funded by NRS Healthcare and Innovate UK. The final product will have the potential to help the estimated 22% of UK older adults who use two-wheeled walkers indoors.
Leading the project, Dr. Sibylle Thies, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Salford School of Health & Society, said: “It has been a pleasure working with Belong’s residents to achieve our research goals. Using their insights and studying the biomechanics of how they physically handle the prototype has been instrumental to the design process.”
Zoe Robson added: “Our residents have loved being involved in the project; we have established relationships with a number of universities to explore how the lives of older people can be enhanced and we place great emphasis on improving health and fitness – for all ages and even for those with limited mobility. The pilot walker appears to be a new era for walking aids and will also help older people maintain their independence.”