If you are having trouble getting up and moving around, you may benefit from a mobility aid. These are designed to take some of the weight off your hips, knees, and ankles, and to assist with your posture. They can also prevent falls if you struggle with balance. These tools can help you move around and continue living independently. Some examples of mobility aids include:
Walking Sticks or Canes: This type of mobility aid can help people who have one leg that is significantly weaker than the other. A walking stick can also help with minor balance problems, and is recommended to support up to 25 percent of a person’s body weight. Walking sticks are useful for people who can still mobilise well independently but would benefit from extra support for walking or standing up. It is important to make sure your walking stick is adjusted to the right height for you, which can be measured by your doctor or physiotherapist.
Walking Frames: For extra support, a walking frame offers a sturdier structure that can support up to 50 percent of a person’s body weight. Walking frames can have stoppers or wheels at the base depending on how much stability a person needs. Most walking frames with wheels have a brake for better control. A walking frame is a good choice for someone with significant balance issues who can still bear their own weight. These must also be adjusted to the correct height for the user.
Wheelchairs: For people who can no longer walk, who experience significant unsteadiness, or who have difficulty getting out of a chair, a manual or electric wheelchair may offer the best mobility. If you can use your upper body, a manual wheelchair that you push with your arms may allow you to keep your independence. If your upper body cannot manage this, you may be able to use an electric wheelchair.
Bathroom Aids: There are various types of bathroom aids to make the bathroom more accessible to people with mobility or balance issues. Aids such as grab rails, shower seats, textured non-slip flooring, and commodes can make the bathroom a safer place for you.
If you think you could benefit from a mobility aid, talk to your doctor or physical therapist to see what is right for you. More information on mobility aids can be found here.
A mobility scooter can offer independence to people who can no longer drive but still wish to travel alone. Mobility scooters are designed for people with physical or neurological impairments, are normally electric, and are powered by a motor of up to 1500 watts. You do not need a driver’s license to operate a mobility scooter.
Waka Kotahi (The New Zealand Transport Agency NZTA) requires that you ride on the footpath whenever possible and maintain a safe speed that does not put other footpath users at risk. If there is no footpath, you must keep as close to the edge of the road as possible. For safety, Waka Kotahi (NZTA) recommends attaching a bright flag at least 1.5m off the ground to your scooter for visibility. Do not let anyone else sit or stand on your scooter when you are using it. If you park your scooter in a public place, make sure it is out of the way and that you take your key with you.
Waka Kotahi (NZTA) has a guide about how to safely operate a scooter, how to look after your scooter, and what laws apply which can be read here.
Being a pedestrian
Waka Kotahi (NZTA) offers advice for walking safely as an older person. It is recommended that if you are walking, you should:
- Plan your trip before leaving
- Wear light or bright coloured clothing and reflective materials
- Use a torch when walking at night
- Use footpaths where provided, and if there are no footpaths walk facing oncoming traffic
- Cross the road in well-lit areas and use appropriate crossings if possible
- Look for vehicle lights and listen for engine noises
- Take extra care in parking areas such as by supermarkets and malls
- Wear suitable shoes
For more information about pedestrian safety tips, check Waka Kotahi (NZTA).
If you are planning a trip, it is important to organise everything you may need in advance. If you are going away for more than one day, it may be useful to consider the following:
- Ensure you have enough of your frequent medication to take with you, including some for easy access during the journey
- Ask your GP for a letter outlining any significant medical history, and the dosage and generic names of any medications you take
- Wear a MedicAlert bracelet if you have one
- Pack spare glasses and hearing aid batteries
- Make sure to check if you have all your vaccinations, especially if travelling overseas
- Pack for the climate – remember older people may need more or less layers and make sure to keep up fluids
- If you have pre-existing conditions, make sure these are covered by your travel insurance
- If you are travelling through time zones, make sure to take your medication at the appropriate time, or have a plan in place to adjust medication timing
For more information on travelling as an older person, check the over-60s traveller guide on 1Cover and travel tips on Aging Care.
Websites of interest
- If you are interested in driver education, Refresher Courses for Older Drivers, or the Life Without a Car course, contact your local Age Concern
- For information on senior driving and other transport available for you, check Waka Kotahi (NZTA)
- To understand the Total Mobility Scheme, you can find resources here or contact your local Age Concern
- If you are looking for accessible places to go, search the Accessible Day Out Library
- Check Tourism New Zealand for more resources on planning an accessible trip