This week I noticed an ENORMOUS number of people with walking canes in NYC. I thought I was having that “new word” experience, i.e., you learn a new word and then you suddenly see it everywhere. But, in researching this topic, I found the use of walking aids did, indeed, jump 50% over the last decade.
Here’s how this trend got on my radar in the first place
On my weekly treks to Chinatown, I’ve found myself increasingly sharing the sidewalk with elderly Chinese using walking canes – I’d estimate at least one-third of the adults I encounter are using a walking stick of some kind. Another more recent development is the use of mobility scooters. I now encounter at least one or two every time I head to Chinatown.
The homeless. I’ve also been noticing increasing numbers of homeless men on the Bowery using walking canes – especially the men utilizing the services of the Bowery Mission. These men, I’ve also noticed, tend to be overweight and arthritic.
Art lovers. My most recent sightings, last Friday, were in Chelsea. As I was heading to the Yayoi Kusama show, I ran into at least a dozen people gallery hopping, cane in hand. Says a lot about the age of the collector class.
Scroll down for more.
The most recent study on walking aids is from 2015.
Nancy Gell, at the University of Vermont, found the use of walking aids had increased by 50% in the past decade.
- 25% of older Americans now use canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters.
- Obesity rates are skyrocketing. Being old and obese is not a good combination since it places stress on aging joints.
- A large percentage of the older adult population uses more than one mobility device. More than 9% now rely on multiple devices.
- 16.4% use a cane; 11.6% use walkers; 6.1% use wheelchairs; and 2.3% rely on scooters. Note: this info is from 2015. I expect these figures to have gone up significantly since then.
- Seniors who over-rely on walking aids are limiting their physical activity to the point that it has a detrimental effect on their health.
- Previous studies linking the use of walking aids with falls have not been borne out by more recent studies. Someone using a cane or walker is not more likely to fall than someone not using one.
- It is possible seniors who remain physically active do run a higher risk of falling because they are engaging in physical activity. But the benefits of being active may still outweigh the risks.
Here’s the link to the Consumer Affairs article.
I love it when data supports my observational research 😊
On a personal note, I bought a folding cane several years ago because I thought it would help me to walk longer distances. But I never really used it except for hiking, because, at the same time, I was losing weight and doing exercises to build up the muscles supporting my hip joints. Achieving both of those goals nixed the need for a walking cane.
But I will most definitely be taking it with me on my trip to Central and South America. Major treks are on the itinerary in Tikal, Patagonia, Peru and Iguacu Falls.