Perspectives on use of mobility aids in a diverse population of seniors: Implications for intervention

Linda Resnik, P.T., Ph.D., Susan Allen, Ph.D., Deborah Isenstadt, M.B.A., Melanie Wasserman, Ph.D., Lisa Iezzoni, M.D., M.Sc.

Providence VA Medical Center, Providence, RI 02908, USA
Department of Community Health, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Harvard University and Institute for Health Policy, Boston, MA 02114, USA
Beth Israel University Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA 02215, USA

Disability and Health Journal,



Many older adults who might benefit from using mobility aids do not or will not use them. Studies show that attitudes and beliefs strongly affect the decision to use mobility aids. Despite the growing diversity of the population, no prior studies have compared attitudes towards and beliefs about mobility aids by race and ethnicity.


This study aimed to explore whether and how attitudes towards and beliefs about mobility aid use vary by race and ethnicity.


We conducted 12 focus groups with 61 community dwelling persons age 65+ years from three groups: white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic. Data were coded and compared across groups.


For all groups, perceived benefits of mobility devices in maintaining independence and control produced positive attitudes. However, the association of mobility aid use with aging and physical decline contributed to stigmatizing attitudes. Black and Hispanic participants expressed apprehension about using unsafe or inappropriate secondhand equipment, heightened concerns about mobility aid users becoming subjects of negative biases, and a preference for fashionable aids. Hispanic participants expressed a preference for human assistance. Participants of all groups perceived physicians as influencing their decisions to use aids.


Social pressures and perceived stigma deter mobility aid use, particularly in minority populations. Greater physician involvement, positive peer models, and affordable, safe, visually appealing devices would promote greater acceptance of mobility aids.