walking aids and seniors

Why Some Seniors Refuse to Use Walking Aids

When seniors develop an injury or illness that affects their balance, walking aids can help them get up and moving again. Doctors may recommend using a cane or walker either permanently or until the condition resolves itself. While some seniors are happy to comply, others refuse to get on board.

Why do some seniors refuse to use walking aids?


Some seniors refuse to use walking aids because they firmly believe they can get along on their own just fine. Simply put, they allow their pride to cloud their judgement. This is a perfectly normal response.

No one wants to feel as if they are a burden. No one wants anyone to worry about them. Everyone has a desire to rise above the challenges they face.

It?s important to understand the patient?s mindset if pride is the reason for refusal. It might help to explain that there is no shame in using a walking aid. In fact, using one will make them more independent.

A Need to Remain Independent

Unfortunately, there?s a certain stigma attached to using a walking aid. Canes and walkers are often associated with aging, weakness and dependency.

As mentioned previously, it?s important to explain that using a walking aid actually improves independence. Without the aid, it may be difficult, impossible or unsafe to walk alone.

It?s also important to explain that walking aids actually improve independence and help maintain mobility. Most seniors find it easier to walk farther with more confidence and less fatigue using a walking aid.

If a senior refuses to use a walking aid, the risk of falling and being injured is much higher. Unfortunately, hip injuries are common injuries associated with falls (1 in 10 falls results in a hip fracture). Hip fractures can be deadly in seniors ? 25% die within six months of the injury. About half of seniors with fall-related injuries are sent to nursing homes rather than their own homes after being discharged from the hospital.


It?s difficult for most people to accept the reality of aging. Some seniors are simply in denial about their need for a walking aid. They may claim that their loved ones are being overprotective and that they are just fine to carry on business as usual.

In this case, it can help to have a doctor or physical therapist explain the need for a cane or walker.

As a caregiver, it?s important to be sympathetic and understanding if your patient or loved one refuses to use a walking aid.

Explaining the importance and benefits of using walkers, canes and other aids may help sway the senior?s mind. They will also help you find the best walker for your needs and budget.

5 Strategies to Help Seniors Who Refuse to Use Walking Aids

When seniors refuse to use walking aids, it can be frustrating for caregivers and loved ones. It’s important to remember that seniors are still adults and should be allowed to make their own choices ? as long as they are not putting themselves in danger.

You cannot force your loved one to use a walking aid, but you can do your best to persuade them to use one or help them come to the conclusion (on their own) that they need an aid.

1. Explain the Benefits of Using Walking Aids

Many seniors assume that using a cane or walker automatically means that they are giving up their independence.

For some, it is the first sign that they are truly getting older. That can be difficult to accept, particularly if the senior has a negative mindset. Shifting the senior?s perspective can be helpful.

Explain the benefits of using a walking aid:

  • You will be able to walk through the store on your own.
  • It will be much easier to navigate stairs and curbs.
  • You?ll be able to enjoy your walks through the park again.
  • You can still travel on your own.
  • You will reduce your risk of falling.

Rather than focusing on the stigma of having to use a walking aid, focus on the benefits.

2. Offer Alternatives

If walking aids are simply out of the question, ask the senior if he or she would rather live in an assisted living center or have a home care provider come to the house.

The harsh reality is that many seniors will require the help of an aid or will have to transition to an assisted living facility after a fall. The risk of falling is far greater without a mobility aid.

Hearing these less-than-desirable alternatives may make the use of mobility aids sound more appealing.

3. Talk about Options

Some seniors refuse to use a cane simply because a doctor or a loved one told them they needed one. Instead of telling the senior which mobility aid to use, provide options. Allow the senior to choose the aid. Maybe your loved one would prefer to use a quad cane over a walker or wheelchair.

Just make sure that the aid can accommodate the senior?s needs.

4. Be Patient and Understanding

Be patient and understanding when your loved one refuses to use a mobility aid. Listen to the senior. When he or she refuses to use a cane, ask why. The response may give you some clues as to how to approach to subject.

For example, if the senior is afraid of sticking out in the crowd or being judged, perhaps an umbrella cane or walking stick would be more desirable.

5. Get the Help of a Professional

Sometimes, the recommendation of a doctor or physical therapist is all it takes to convince a senior to use a mobility aid. Consult with the senior?s physician and make an appointment to discuss the senior?s mobility needs.

About the author

Tim Brewer

Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.

View all posts