After more than three years of study, I have learned that those using medical walkers want the dignity of standing straight with good posture. They want what we all want -- to walk with freedom wherever they wish; to feel comfortable and safe when walking; and even more, the ability to have an active, healthier life.
There is the medical health part of this, and the daily active living part. I understood this only after working quite a while with my wife Jean and designing our ﬁrst upright walker. Now, having traveled to clinics to have rehabilitating patients use the LifeWalker and physical therapists help them, I get it at a level far deeper than ever -- the LifeWalker is a life-changer for many who rehab in it as well as those who use it in their daily activities.
The medical part
Doctors and physical therapists have told me that standing up straight takes pressure from the heart and lungs; that they don't have to work as hard to get oxygen to the body and brain. People with osteoporosis of the spine often experience tiny fractures causing them to bend forward. An upright walker pulls them up taller.
Walking with some weight on the armrests takes pressure from the spine, hips, legs and feet. Many patients who have used the LifeWalker report less pain and more comfort in those areas. They seem to feel safer too in an upright position when walking within the walker footprint.
I've worked with physical therapists while they test stroke, Parkinson's and other partially paralyzed patients who could hardly walk at all until they were put in the LifeWalker. It seemed to me to be a life changing experience for them. Many who could not walk were walking immediately; a stunning thing for me to see, and physical therapists too.
The daily active living part
My wife Jean, who with ataxia, has great difﬁculty standing in place for longer than a few minutes, went with me to a cocktail party using her new LifeWalker. She had gotten so that she didn't want to socialize often. Usually she would ﬁnd a chair to sit pretty quickly. Jean was so surprised that with the upper armrests to lean upon she could stand and talk with her friends, eye to eye for a long period of time while enjoying a glass of wine! This was a big deal for my girl and a surprise to me.
We have seen disabled people able to get out and enjoy a long walk in the park who simply couldn't do that having become disabled with a severe neurological or other gait disorder, including patients who prior to having our upright walker were in a wheelchair for years.
When I began to develop the LifeWalker, I had no idea these things would occur. I was as surprised as the physical therapists who ﬁrst saw it and the patients who experienced the transformation.
So, perhaps a lucky thing that I left retirement behind.