ONE OF THE MOST COMMON ITEMS we supply to clients who ‘walk in’ to the office is a Walker or ‘Rollator’. They’ve been around for ages, have various names and also come in lots of different types – and that’s before you choose the colour! We’ve just started to make these available in the Online Store too, so I thought I’d write a quick article about how to choose the right Walker/Rollator for yourself, or for the person you know who needs it.
So what’s the difference between a ‘Walker’ and ‘Rollator’? Both names are used quite a lot, but the easiest way to explain this is that a Walker does not always have wheels and brakes, whereas a Rollator does have wheels and usually has brakes. So for the purpose of this article, we’re going to talk about Rollators.
In simple terms, Rollators are usually classified by their wheel size, or how they fold. Wheels are usually measured in Inches, and typically start at 6 inches and step up to 7 or 8 inches. There are also larger wheel sizes available on some models that are designed to be easier to push or steer, and some are just made to look nicer too!
In terms of how they fold, this is usually a central fold (e.g. pull up in the middle and it collapses), or a side fold where the walker will concertina for transport or storage.
Almost all Rollators (that is, a device with 3 or 4 wheels designed to assist with walking) have a seat that can be used for a short period of time whenever needed. If you require a seat for a long period of time though, you may find a wheelchair or scooter is a better choice as both provide a more comfortable and supportive seat.
The first thing to consider is where will it be used? Often we find that there are multiple places the user might want to go with it, and sometimes this makes a big difference as to which one we recommend. There’s two main things to look at here – wheel size and comfort. Both play important parts in determining whether the new Walker becomes the greatest thing ever, or sits in the corner and isn’t touched. Briefly:
- As a General Rule, the Smaller the Wheels, the more likely it is to ‘tramline’ or get caught up in ruts and rough terrain. If the Rollator is going to be used outside or over uneven surfaces, consider a larger wheel around 8″ in diameter, or bigger if you wish. 6″ Wheels are good for Indoor areas where floors are generally flat and non-slip, but they may be difficult to manoeuvre outside. In contrast, larger wheels are generally good for both indoor and outdoor applications, less likely to get caught up in uneven surfaces, and sometimes require less effort to push.
- In terms of comfort, if the Rollator is going to be used for a long time, is the user likely to want (or need) a seat on it? This can be a major sticking point for some people because as I mentioned above, in general Rollators are not the sort of thing you would want to sit on for a long time. Most have a PVC formed seat base (some are slung and padded material or canvas) and a metal backrest, and they’re designed for a short break – not a couple of hours. So if you, or the person who will use the Rollator is likely to want a very comfy seat, can I recommend you come in and see us and actually try it before deciding which one is right for you.
The next commonly asked question is how will it be transported? Often we see rollators used by older people to maintain their independence by way of providing support for doing things like going to the shops, going for a walk or maybe meeting some friends. But this requires the Rollator to go with the user, and this usually involves putting it into a vehicle of some sort. So again, do some research and try it for yourself. There’s no amount of information we can provide that compares to actually doing it and seeing if you can manage, and we encourage our clients to quite literally walk out of the showroom with the Rollator, go to the car and make sure it will a) fit where you want it to and b) that you can get it in and out without needing assistance. This is where choosing a different type of folding mechanism can also prove beneficial, as the way the Rollator folds often impacts on the overall size of it when its folded down.
If you use a lot of community transport or taxis etc. this might not be as much of an issue, but it’s still a good idea to check with your transport provider whether they have any requirements or restrictions on what types of equipment they will be able to take.
And finally, what are you going to put in it? Rollators all have some form of storage, whether it is a simple bag under the seat, a pocket with a zipper or even a seperate bag that can be easily taken off and used to hold shopping etc. Consider what you need to take with you, how secure it will need to be (for things like keys, phones and wallets) and how easy it is to get to if you need it – if you’re sitting on the seat and need to get something from the bag underneath, this might be tricky.
There are lots of different options for storage including additional holders for things like walking sticks, crutches, oxygen bottles and more- I have even had one client who bought a rollator specifically because it would fit a carton of beer under the seat! If you can give us an idea of what you might need to take with you, we’ll be more than happy to give you some recommendations on what might be a good option.
So once you’ve selected the Rollator you want, there is one critical component left – the fitment. We’ve all seen the person who stoops so low to hold on to the handles as they walk – this is not good for your back and it’s very, very easy to resolve in most cases, so make sure you have the rollator adjusted to suit your height and walking style before you go anywhere with it. In most cases this is as simple as undoing two nuts, raising or lowering the handle heights and doing the nuts up again, but it can make a huge difference to your comfort and stability. All Rollators we supply include a fitment at no extra cost before you leave, or if you’re buying it for somebody else we can make arrangements to go to them.
You should be able to comfortably place your hands on the handles of the Rollator without having to lean over or step back, and your arms should not feel like they are being ‘held up’ by the Rollator. Similarly, try and stand as close as you can behind the Rollator, and imagine you are pushing a wheelbarrow – it will go where you aim it, and have a very short turning circle too.
Rollators are great and we are lucky enough to have quite a good range, so if you are in the market for one (or looking to buy for somebody else) please do come and spend some time with us to see what the options are. Alternatively, if you’re not local to us and looking to buy via our Online Store, please feel free to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.