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Designing a better walker

How can we design a better walker for Helen (seniors)?

Photo of Nahla Khogeer
4 7

Written by

Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

Helen, a friend's mom

Walkers with wheels are too heavy, not easy to fold up, and take in a car.  Other rollators are also difficult, and / or too expensive.  

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Adjusting a basic walker and modifying it to work better, as it's a good lightweight start.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

What's the max weight people will tolerate to carry a folded up walker? What's the pain point in using a walker? Feedback about what people like or don't like about walkers?

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

We are grad students, MAIA (Industrial Design) studying at SFSU. Aging is a major issue for design groups.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael O'Sullivan

Hey Nahla

Cool idea and a really good problem area. It's great to be able to immediately start hacking an existing walker, testing it and doing rapid iterations.
I wonder if the product could benefit from being somewhat adjustable/adaptable to the situation? For example, I imagine that users are most stiff and in need of support in the mornings and their mobility improves throughout the day? If so, perhaps the product could adjust to be less big/awkward when leaving the house?

Photo of Jeannie Llewellyn

We are working on not only a more "sexy" walker but a light one that deals with bumpy roads and getting over small humps. Keep your eyes open for our refined design!

Photo of Kumi

Hi Nahla, I used to work in outpatient physical therapy and have worked with elderly adults who relied on walkers. See if you can observe someone use a walker (go to a physical therapy clinic or nursing home), ask them questions about what are major obstacles in using a walker. Also ask if they have other co-morbidities (such as arthritis) that may effect their use of their walker.

Most elderly adults are turned off by the stigma of walkers. They don't like who they look, more importantly, how it makes them look. For example, being able to customize the look of a single point cane ( flower pattern, colors, etc. on the pole of the cane) was something that I remember was important to users.

In terms of weight of the walker, I think as light as you can possibly get it. Anything over 8-10 pounds is heavy for an elderly adult who is weak to average strength. If they have arthritis gripping is difficult, and triggering pain causes more weakness. Perhaps making them look less industrial would help with the appeal of walkers.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Nahla!

Do you have time to quickly upload an image of your walker design idea?

Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

I really like your pros and cons of all the assisted devices from Helen's perspective. Would you be able to elaborate further on how the car is too high and also too low for Helen to get out of the car?