New Brazilian PVC trunk-support walker provides greater safety at lower cost 

Occupational therapist Paloma Hohmann Poier always makes sure the elderly are safe when they walk. From her work with Brazilian senior citizens, she identified that being sedentary is a major factor that contributes to risk of falling.
Therefore, after getting a master's degree in Biomedical Engineering at Federal Technological University of Paraná ( UTFPR ) she decided to develop a low-cost walker that promotes body support.  Paloma said that current trunk-supporting walkers range in price from $ 4,000 and $ 40,000.  After studying the market, she began to develop a quality alternative at a much lower cost, creating a walker with trunk support made ​​with PVC pipe.

"Postural instability is one of the causes of disability in the elderly and the use of baby walkers is one strategy to generate greater stability and security in maintaining upright posture and healthy gait. There are currently specialized walkers using vests or partial support of the body systems, but their high cost is a great drawback," explains Paloma.

In the PVC walker, the support of the stem attached to the walker is designed to support the weight of the user in case of a fall. During research, tests were performed in order to analyse the mechanical strength of the material used in order to build the best possible walker. Paloma states that PVC proved to be an excellent material with high strength in bending and impact tests. The maximum mass supported by the PVC walker in the tests she conducted was approximately 500 pounds.

After evaluating and testing the equipment, nine seniors with postural instability underwent assessment of body sway or stabilometry and 3 seniors were assessed for gait analysis with and without the use of walker.  The result, Paloma noted, was that the use of the walker promoted a decrease in body sway in all elderly participants .

"Without using the walker, the average stabilometry was 10,297 cm ² and with the walker the sway was less at 3,264 cm ² .  In evaluating gait analysis with accelerometer sensors located in the hip joint, without the walker, the elderly had a greater extension and less bending. With the walker these values ​​were reversed,"  Paloma explains.  With the walker, the mean right flexion increased from 15.33 ° to 20.67 ° and extension decreased from 10 ° to 7.33 ° . The time required for completion of a course of 12 meters was greater with the use of the walker.

Paloma’s study concludes by stating that "the results indicate there is an improvement in the stability and balance of the elderly with the use of walker. Gait analysis demonstrated a shift in the width of the walk, but without a significant change  "