Mobility aids for independent living

You can get there from here reaching and mobility aids for independent living

For more information see Independent Living.

The freedom to move from place to place in your home and out in the community is critical to independent living. If you have problems with movement, balance or coordination, there are a number of devices that may help you move around and accomplish everyday activities. This brochure includes information on devices to help with reaching, walking, and support. Pushing, pulling, grasping and turning are movements that can be easier for you with a reaching aid.

The models shown here have been designed to cover a wide range of activities and can help people with a weak or painful grip, or those with limited range of motion.

Reaching aids

The most common reachers consist of a pair of jaws controlled by a trigger mechanism. Made of lightweight aluminum and plastic, they are available in a variety of sizes and lengths. The desk-sized model, about 24” long, is useful for retrieving objects on your desk, kitchen counter or bedside table. A mid-range length, about 28” long, is useful for everyday activities such as picking up objects from the floor or reaching high storage areas. An extra-long model of 32” is also available if you need extended reach.

Features you’ll find useful include a magnet for clutching and holding metal objects, and a projecting lug for pulling things toward you. Reachers that fold are available with toggle (rather than trigger) closing action, swivel heads, or forearm extensions.

Prices vary depending on the size and features. Reachers are available at most medical supply stores.

Walking aids

Mobility can be complicated by many factors, such as pain and weakness in the legs or back, uncertain balance or dizziness, muscular tremors or spasms, as well as paralysis. Canes and walkers can enhance your mobility in and out of your home.


Although canes can be purchased at many drugstores, you should consult with your doctor if you are having frequent or pronounced periods of weakness, dizziness, or poor coordination.

Consider the following factors when selecting a cane:  

Height: The handle should be at the height of your hip joint.

Weight: The cane should be easy to lift

Handle: The grip should be comfortable and secure.

Base: Canes are available with single tips, or 4-legged, wide bases.

Another option available is a loop on the handle of the cane, to free your hands for other activities. Also, a fold-down ice gripping tip can be attached to the side of the cane.


Walkers are particularly useful for individuals with balance problems, since it provides support through both arms at a fixed distance. Walkers come in a wide range of heights and weights, with a variety of handle styles. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for help in making a selection.

Making changes in your environment can also greatly enhance your ability to get from place to place in your home. Strategically placing your furniture or installing grab bars are just some of the ways you can make getting around easier for yourself. Even how you dress can make a difference in your mobility.

Layout:  Arrange your furniture so that as you walk around your house, the different pieces can be used for support. Remove small rugs, that aren’t tacked down, as they are easy to trip over.

Clothing and Footwear

Choose pants and tops that do not restrict motion. Don’t wear clothing that trails behind you. Wear shoes with textured soles that provide better grip. Removable cleats are available at camping store, and can provide better footing on ice and snow.

Grab bars

Grab bars make the most of your strength by giving you extra support when and where you need it, such as climbing in and out of the bathtub, your bed, or negotiating a flight of stairs.

A grab bar looks like a towel rack, but is designed to be strong enough to support your weight and more. Flanges on the ends of the bar have sturdy screws for installation, preferably into wall studs. There should be room between the bar and the wall for you to get a good grip, and the diameter of the bar should feel solid in your hand. Made of plastic or rust-resistant metal, the bar may have a rough surface to prevent slipping. Many shapes and sizes are available for different uses; most are wall-mounted, but some attach to the edge of your bathtub.

Some considerations in selecting a grab bar: 

  • Choose a bar and a location which lets you use your strongest muscles most effectively.
  • Make sure the bar you select is long enough. If you run out of support before you are fully standing, you could lose momentum and fall.
  • An occupational therapist can help you with decisions about what kind of bars you need and where to place them.

Different shapes and sizes of grab bars can be purchased at plumbing supply stores, some department and hardware stores, or at medical/surgical supply stores. If you can’t find one to suit your needs, some companies will custom design a bar at a higher price. You may also be able to arrange standard bars in sequences to give you the support you need.