Elderly Falls Tied to Canes and Walkers

Tips to Ensure Safe Use of Mobility Aids

elderly woman with walker shopping
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More than 47,000 elderly falls occur in America each year that result in emergency room visits. Data from 2001 to 2006 shows that 129 Americans older than 65 were treated each day in emergency rooms for injuries resulting from falls using walkers and canes. Of the falls related to walkers and canes, you may be surprised to learn that most -- 87% of elderly falls -- were attributable to walker use.

Walkers Involved in More Falls Than Canes

People were 7 times more likely to be injured by a fall when using a walker rather than a cane. Seems counterintuitive doesn't it? Further study is needed, but it could be that people who use walkers and canes are more fragile and therefore more likely to fall than those who don't use them.

Approximately 78% of walker-related injuries and 66% of cane-related injuries happened to women. Clearly, walkers and canes are walking aids that are important for elderly people to maintain their mobility -- and independence. But proper and safe use of mobility aids is essential. Otherwise, falls can have severe health consequences.

The Magnitude of the Problem

There were other interesting findings in the CDC report that highlight the significance of the problem:

  • The chance of sustaining a fall, among those who used walkers or canes, increased with age, with the highest rate among people 85 and older.
  • Fractures were the most common injury associated with falls, and a third involved the lower trunk (i.e., hip, pelvis).
  • More than half of the elderly fall injuries occurred at home.
  • One in three people whose fall occurred with a walker, and more than one in four whose fall occurred while using a cane had to be hospitalized.

    The problem is very real. And the solution, somewhat obvious. People over 65 years old should:

    • start a regular exercise program
    • review medications with their doctor
    • have regular eye checkups
    • make their home environment as safe as possible

    It's important to choose a cane or walker that suits you in terms of design, fit, and feel. It's equally important to learn how to use your cane or walker properly -- with the help of a physical therapist or other medical professional. Check out these resources:

    Tips for Walker Use
    People with osteoarthritis often require mobility aids to compensate for painful joints or joints with limited range of motion. Mobility aids add stability and improve balance -- if used properly.

    How to Choose and Use a Cane
    To obtain the maximum support from a cane it must be a proper fit and used correctly. Even the hand you hold it in matters.

    Mobility Aids - What You Need to Know
    Mobility and walking can be impaired if you have arthritis. Canes and walkers offer additional support and improve balance when walking.

    How to Prevent Slips and Falls
    Slips and falls can greatly threaten your health and independence, and are a major cause of serious injury and death.


    47,000 Older Adults Treated in Emergency Departments Annually for Fall Injuries Related to Walkers and Canes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 29, 2009.

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