Walker Aid

Date / Period
Object Type
Medical Equipment
Community Health

When the Canadian Red Cross launched its second era of peacetime work at the end of the Second World War (1939-45), it took several new directions. A program of loaning health equipment for home use was one such venture. The walker aid shown here is one example of the many useful items loaned by the Red Cross under this long-running program.

The idea of health equipment loans was first raised in the discussions of the society’s Postwar Planning Committee, as one of many suggestions brought forward by staff and volunteers. The idea gained immediate traction because Red Cross leaders knew that the end of the war would bring the return of many sick and wounded military personnel. At this time, many communities did not have other sources of such equipment for home use.

In 1946 the Sickroom Supply Loan Cupboard program was launched. Participating Red Cross branches raised money to purchase equipment such as crutches, canes, wheelchairs, walkers, bedpans, raised toilet seats, and over-bed tables, and members of the community could borrow them for free. Once returned, the items were cleaned and loaned to a new recipient.

The program filled a real need, not just among recuperating veterans, but within the broader population, and has continued to function and expand up to the present day. In the intervening decades health equipment has become available from other charitable, governmental, and commercial sources, particularly in large cities. Yet there remains a need for free or low-cost, short-term loans in many communities across the country.

The basic premise of the program has remained the same over the past 70 years, but in that time it has undergone a few facelifts and been known by many names. The Sickroom Supply Loan Cupboard of 1946 became the Sickroom Equipment Loan Service (SELS) of 1968. In the 1990s regional names varied widely, including the Medical Equipment Loan Service (MELS) in Western Canada, and the Home Health Equipment Service (HHES) in Ontario.

In 2008-2009 the program was renamed nationally, and gained its catchiest acronym to date: the Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP). Today the service continues to operate across the country, offering its traditional items as well as, in some areas, more specialized pieces of equipment. Helping the elderly remain in their own homes as long as possible has also become a benefit of this venerable program.

Walker Aid

HELP Walker Aid
Walker Aid, ca. mid-2000s.
Support Walker Aid 1
Support Walker Aid 4
Support Walker Aid 2
Support Walker Aid 3

Stay Informed & Stay Connected