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Hi everyone,

 

My name is Alex and I'm an industrial design student at University of Cincinnati. Currently I'm trying to design a walker for people suffering from Parkinson's, after seeing how difficult movement is for a friend of mine who has the disease. I know it is a sensitive topic and I don't want to tread on anyone's toes, but your input is invaluable as a patient or caretaker who deals with Parkinson's everyday. The last thing I want is to make something useless out of naivety or lack of comprehensive forethought. I know everyone has different a different experience with the disease and I'd like to account for the different ways it may affect you.

 

I have a number of questions, and I hope have a conversation about them with you rather than offer a survey for you to complete. I'll try not to write a wall of text while explaining every one of my questions, but I think a bit of context might help. If you're interested in more background I'll gladly provide additional information.

 

     One area I'm looking at is staircases. My friend (whom I'll call George out of respect for his privacy) uses multiple walkers, because he can't take them up and down stairs. One idea I have is to make a lightweight walker that can help him move up and down stairs with greater ease. However, I also realize how devastating a fall can be if it were to happen.

 

     What are your experiences on staircases? Do you require a handrail? If so, how do you use it? (One or both hands, for balance, weight support, etc?)

 

     Would you be interested in a walker that can go on stairs at all, or would such an idea be too risky to use in a real world situation?

 

     Another area I've looked at is freezing. There are some mobility devices out there that have laser guides or small sticks that you can step over, which reportedly help rewire the thought process behind taking a step so that freezing can be counteracted. Similarly, I've read that walking on patterned tiles (checkerboard or white and black stripes for example) can help make walking smoother. Do you have any thoughts on this, in terms of your own experiences with freezing, personal remedies, and opinions on such technologies/practices? 

 

    My last focus is on the adjustability of walkers. If you have a folding walker, how often do you fold it up and for what purpose? Most walkers can be adjusted for height, but do you ever wish it could be more easily changed? For example, for people who have difficulty getting out of a chair, do you ever wish your walker was a different height to help with standing up?

 

 

I sincerely hope not to insult anyone with these questions. Any answers at all would be greatly appreciated, and of course only answer what you are comfortable talking about. If you have any advice for me in terms of approaching the topic in the future, please do let me know. Thank you for all your help!

 

 

Regards,

Alex

Edited by DesignStudent

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Hello Alex and thank you for you thoughtful interest. As of yet I do not  need a walker but I can see a day when I will have to get one. I hope there are better options when that time comes.  

 

To answer your first question about stairs, I use one hand most of the time to balance my self and guide myself up or down. When my drugs are wearing off or not kicking in very well I then use it to pull my self up the stairs and slow my self when coming down. Not sure if I could carry a walker with me when I am go up or down the stairs.

 

Question 2, I think an easily adjustable walk that one could lock the wheels and use for getting out of a chair would be a big help as well.

 

Not sure if you have seen this video of Max Lafontaine https://youtu.be/F7yXzbJQdyU, he has developed a walker with lots of good unique ideas but has had trouble getting it launched. Some of his design I really like... I like the steering system, breaks, folding seat and larger wheels. How ever his walker is rather large and seems like it could be hard to maneuver in small places.

 

Good luck and feel free to ask anything.

I look forward to what you come up with.

 

Blessings Adam

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Hi adams234, thank you for your response! 

 

That's good to hear my suspicion confirmed, carrying a walker up the stairs seems like too much effort to have to do on a daily basis. I do wonder about using something smaller as an aid when descending, though-- something else to help you to hold up your weight. Do you find walking up or down stairs more difficult? I could imagine the effort to lift your body up is comparable to the awkwardness of slowly climbing down stairs.

 

That's a great link, thanks for sharing! It seems very much like an "on the road" walker rather than one that you'd have in your house. What about the larger wheels do you like? You also mentioned hoping for better options once you'll need a walker-- do you have anything in mind, as in what you're looking for or what you think is wrong with the current ones on the market?

 

Thanks again for your help! Right now I'm trying to sketch my ideas and hammer out the details of how it'll look and what it'll do. Soon I'll be making some physical prototypes to test out, I'll be sure to post an update later on!

 

Cheers,

Alex

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Here is just a short list of things I have found annoying about various walkers I have owned -

-built of cheap parts

-heavier than they need to be

- brakes tend to be fiddly

- protrusions that get caught on things

- I've injured my feet on every Walker I've ever owned (one had bolts that were constantly getting caught on my shoelaces, anther was a problem if my foot came down on the brakes, my current one has spokes so wide that my bare feet will fit in between them, if I accidentally push the Walker in that position, ouch!)

-they are difficult to get replacement parts for (and often intentionally designed that way)

 

 

I'm sure there's other issues I'm not remembering

 

Larger wheels take bumps better (my first Walker would hit a bump in the sidewalk, fall over, then fold itself up in the process. Kind of defeated the purpose)

 

As for stairs, I think any PT would tell you that coming down is much more dangerous than going up.

 

Good luck with your project ????

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Another thing I just thought of, walkers with seats often force you to walk somewhat stooped in order to keep your leg from swinging into the seat while moving forward. If the seat could fold up out of the way, and the bar nearest the user were eliminated or moved higher that problem (which my PTs often complain about) might be solved.

Edited by Feisty Folder

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Wow, thanks a bunch-- this is great information!  Speaking of which, what are some of the walkers you've used/what walker do you use now? That'll help me get a better idea of where you're coming from, though the points you've mentioned already make a lot of sense. I've noticed there are a lot of walkers on the market already. What's your decision making process like when figuring out which one to get?

 

Cheers,

Alex

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My mom used to like using shopping carts because the handle bar is straight across and she can walk holding any part of the bar and that she can stand straight using it.  She will not use a walker.

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Hi Alex,

 

As far as I am concerned, I would not use any "device" climbing up or down the stairs but use one or both hands, depending on the steepness of the stairs or my physical condition at the time.  I like the idea of having something that helps me walk with a seat.  My big problem with walking is my thigh muscles get so sore and tight because my toes are clamped all the time when I stand. The simple fact of leaning against a wall releases tension in my thighs and I can start walking again. So, this device with a seat seems wonderful.  I would like it to be as foldable as possible so as to fit easily in an european car. Make it lighweight also so it does not cost me a fortune to have it shipped over here.

Keep up the good work !

Mireille

 

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Hello Alex.

 

The larger wheels will handle transitions from hardwood floors to carpet better than the smaller wheels. There is a walker on the market called the U-step, this has a lot of good ideas for Parkinson's patients. It has a laser beam to help with freezing. The break automatically comes on when the bar is released (this helps with falling). The wheels on it seem small. I am not sure if they swivel so turning will take more force as well.  

 

I find going down the stairs to be more difficult when my med have not kicked in. In this case I use one or both railings to slow my self. I get the feeling if I don't slow my self I will just keep going till I fall.

 

I do like the idea of a fold away seat and I like the idea of being able to steer it like a bike. Not sure how practical that will be.

 

Hope this helps

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Thanks for the responses! Seems like having a seat on the walker is pretty important- but it shouldn't get in the way of your stride. I also like the idea of rotating wheels. It seems like any walker on the market that has decent mobility comes with a lot of weight as well, but maybe I can find a happy medium for mine. Something light, agile and supportive.

 

Miracleseeker -- That's a really interesting insight! I had a similar thought while doing research. A handlebar in front would encourage good posture, offer support and balance when you need it, but wouldn't necessarily drive you to become totally dependent on it in order to walk.

 

I wonder about foldability. It seems like most walkers on the market can fold up, which of course is important during transport, but I'm also curious about how many people don't ever use or need that functionality. I suppose it depends on how often you travel in cars, or get out of the house in general.

 

I've checked out the U-step. Seems like a very nice walker, but I also think it's pretty expensive as well as a bit cumbersome. Maybe there's a balance to be found in here somewhere =)

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