Falls and Older Adults

Devices to Help Prevent Falls

Appropriate use of assistive devices can prevent harmful falls. These devices may include canes, walkers, and reachers. A physical or occupational therapist can help you decide which devices might be helpful and teach you how to use them safely. Talk with your doctor about having a physical therapist or occupational therapist assess your device needs.


A cane or walker may help you feel more stable when you walk. Different types of canes are available. Some have grips made of foam or that fit the shape of your hand. Many canes can be adjusted, but some cannot.

A physical therapist can advise you about which cane to choose. Be sure the length fits you well. Your elbow should be slightly bent. A cane that's too short may make you unsteady. A cane that's too long is harder to use. If you use a cane, be sure to learn how to walk with it the right way. A physical therapist can help.


If you're at risk of falling, your physical therapist might suggest using a walker. A walker will help you stay balanced by giving you a wide base of support. Be sure to choose a walker that fits you and gives a level of stability that is best for you.

Different types of walkers are available. Some walkers have two wheels so the walker shouldn't roll away from you. These walkers work well if you need to put weight on the walker when you move. Other walkers have four wheels and brakes for going down inclines.

You can add a basket, tray, or pouch to some walkers to carry items. These accessories will make it more convenient to use the walker.

If you use a walker, be sure it's the right type for you. Also, learn to use it properly. A physical therapist can help you select the right walker and show you how to use it. Four-wheeled walkers can be used if you don't need to put your weight on the walker for balance. Those with two tips and two wheels can roll, depending on where you place your weight. Walkers with tips only are quite common and will not roll.


A reacher, or grabber, can also help prevent falls. This simple tool lets you take lightweight items from high shelves and other places and pick up objects from the floor so you do not have to bend over. Use a reacher rather than standing on a stool to get something from above or bending down to pick up something from the floor.

Portable Phones

Another helpful device is a portable telephone. Carry the phone with you from room to room. When it rings, you won't have to rush to answer it. Not rushing could avert a harmful fall. Never rush to answer the phone or door.