Background: Wheeled walkers (WWs) are used to improve mobility and for fall prevention in older persons, but not all users are satisfied with the usability of WWs. Intelligent WWs are being developed to improve the usability.
Aims: The aim of this study is to support the development of intelligent WWs by investigating possible problems of using a WW.
Methods: This study investigated 22 geriatric in-patients (median age 82 years) with and without their WW while opening a door against the direction of walking and passing through. Other possible problems when using WWs were identified by interview.
Results: Walking through the door was faster without than with using the WW (8.71 versus 12.86 s, p < 0.001), while interference between door and WW was documented in 41 of 44 (93 %) cases. Backward walking performance was better when using a WW with regard to gait speed, step width and walk ratio (all p < 0.002). Most referred problems when using a WW were walking downhill (83 %) and uphill (77 %) and obstacle crossing in general (77 %).
Conclusions: Problems with opening a door against the direction of walking and the optimization of downhill and uphill walking as well as obstacle crossing should be regarded when developing an intelligent WW.