As mobility issues sneak up on many with old age and are common in certain medical conditions, it eventually becomes necessary to look into how to choose a rollator. These mobility aids make a huge difference in the quality of life of many seniors and the elderly because they allow them an increased level of independence to move around without inconvenience.
While any senior can enhance mobility by using a rollator, certain groups of aging citizens struggling with various ailments are ideal candidates to use these mobility devices. Furthermore, operating a rollator does not require the use of a lot of energy, and they are much safer to use than the traditional walker.
Many elderly people suffer from reduced mobility. They are unable to walk as far, for as long without getting tired or getting aches and pains. This can be due to a health condition such as stroke, arthritis, heart disease or osteoporosis. However, sometimes there is no preexisting health condition, elderly people just have variable mobility and explain it as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days
Causes of Mobility Problems
Limitations in mobility with increasing age arise from reduced muscle power in the muscles, bones and joints. These reduce the ability and intensity to perform tasks like regular walking or climbing stairs and affect posture and gait. In some seniors, a loss in bone mass causes a condition called osteoporosis.
Loss of mobility among aging adults has negative psychological and social effects which manifest in physical behavior. Becoming increasingly dependent on other people to move around takes a toll on many seniors and over time, they develop the attitude of “not wanting to bother anyone”.
The accompanying behavioral changes include shying away from social activities, the onset of depression, increasing immobilization, incontinence because they cannot get to the bathroom quickly enough which in turn could lead to the development of urinary tract infections.
In addition, loss of mobility increases the risk of trips and falls, often resulting in a hip fracture. Unfortunately, within a year, 20% of people with hip fractures die from complications. (Godman – Harvard Health Edu 2013)
In other cases, a fall can reveal a mobility issue that had not been previously detected.
How To Choose A Rollator – Medical Conditions That A Rollator Will Benefit
Always consult your healthcare professional for more detailed information about medical conditions.
There are several medical issues ( aside from accident falls) in aging adults that can create reduced mobility and affect independence. In many of these cases, the balance and support provided by a mobility aid such as a rollator are beneficial and enhances the quality of life.
These medical conditions are listed below of which the most common are arthritis and osteoporosis. All these conditions can make moving around more difficult.
Arthritis is common in older people. It involves the swelling and inflammation of the joints. This can cause terrible pain, as well as stiffness, making it difficult to move around. Arthritis usually occurs in the knees, making them hard to bend while walking, and it also occurs in the joints of the hands and elbows, creating dexterity issues – making it difficult to carry or hold things. Affected seniors may be unable to climb or walk.
Osteoarthritis is a type of joint inflammation that occurs when the protective cartilage at the ends of bones reduces. It makes joints swell, stiffen, hurt, or lock into place.
The rollator is a good assistive mobility aid for arthritic conditions.
Osteoporosis – How To Choose A Rollator
This is a common condition among aging adults. It is a type of bone loss that makes the bones weaker, thinner, and more easily breakable, with the condition leading to brittle, weakened bones. People suffering from this condition are usually cautioned by their physician to walk more so as not to risk breaking any bones.
Osteoporosis can also cause stooping and hunching due to deterioration of the bones in the spine, thereby making it difficult to walk upright. The condition causes back and body pain and a worsened posture making movement much more difficult to move. The use of a rollator would benefit this condition.
How To Choose A Rollator – Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease causes tremors and muscle stiffness, making mobility difficult while it may or may not be accompanied by pain. Moving around from point A to point B sometimes takes much longer, requiring more effort than it would in a non-sufferer.
The disease is debilitating and common in people over the age of 60 while it generally worsens over time
Because people with Parkinson’s struggle to maintain their balance, they can fall over easily. This can cause further injuries and distress. Therefore, a rollator can help them to maintain their balance and avoid pain.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – How To Choose A Rollator
COPD is a general term for different lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is caused by air pollution, cigarette smoking, and exposure to chemical fumes.
The disease causes inflammation and fatigue and inflammation. Consequently, they find it harder to breathe especially after exercise. People with the condition cannot move very quickly and need to take short rests while moving about. Rollators with in-built seats are very helpful.
How To Choose A Rollator – Heart Problems
Older adults with heart problems such as high blood pressure and poor circulation often become faint and have difficulty moving around or standing for long periods of time. Cardiovascular problems often lead to difficulty breathing when moving about. This condition can cause limited mobility as the senior or elderly choose to adopt sedentary lifestyles.
The use of a rollator with a seat allows older adults to stop, sit down and rest while they catch their breath and slow their heart rate.
Diabetes – How To Choose A Rollator
The CDC estimated that 25 percent of people age 65 and older were living with diabetes and that diabetes caused 54,161 deaths among adults over age 65 in 2014 (Vann 2016).
Some symptoms of diabetes that may affect mobility include constant trips to the washroom at night, numb or tingling hands or feet and a heavy feeling of tiredness CDC (2021).
How To Choose a Rollator – Medical Conditions That A Rollator Will Not Benefit
This a chronic disorder with symptoms of extensive musculoskeletal (soft tissue) pain, tenderness and fatigue all over the body. This makes it difficult to move around. It also makes hitting against anyone or anything very uncomfortable as it can cause very sharp pains. A rollator would not be a good recommendation for this condition
How To Choose A Rollator – Neuromuscular Conditions
Several neurological disorders affect the muscles and cause issues with mobility. These include multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, both of which can lead to a deterioration of the muscles and nerve tissues. Seniors and the elderly with this condition often experience sudden episodes of weakness and an inability to move.
Neuromuscular disorders can result in degenerating muscles and nerve tissues that leave seniors unable to move normally. With conditions like multiple sclerosis and ataxia, seniors
Conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s typically leave a senior’s physical health intact, but they can still cause many challenges with mobility. Seniors often get disoriented and experience issues with visual-spatial awareness. They might lose the ability to navigate stairs, avoid tripping hazards, and perform fine motor skills like eating or writing.
Are Rollators Safe?
Rollators are safe – if they are used correctly. Incorrect use or use by seniors and the elderly with conditions not suited for this mobility aid can create unsafe conditions.
Some examples of unsafe conditions:
- Losing control of the rollator and crashing into an object or someone
- If you overbalance on a rollator, it could tilt and topple over, taking you with it.
- Wet surfaces are dangerous as the wheels may slip and cause loss of control of the rollator.
- Lacking the strength and cognition to use the brake to stop the rollator when navigating will cause unnecessary accidents and even fractures.
Are Rollators Safe for Long-Term Use?
To ensure that long-term damage is not done to the body by weakening the muscles in the legs or causing carpal syndrome or other upper-torso injuries it is recommended that selection should be of a rollator that fits your body. The arm grips should be at the correct height for your dimensions, and the device should support your weight. Your doctor or physiotherapist can help you size a rollator to your body.
To answer the question – How to choose a Rollator you must determine if it will be safe for the medical condition it is desired to assist. Reduced mobility is a normal part of the aging process for many older adults, but several medical conditions can prevent normal posture and balance.
Godman, H (2013) Two questions can reveal mobility problems in seniors. Harvard Edu Health Blog https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/two-questions-can-reveal-mobility-problems-in-seniors-201309186682
NEN (2017) 5 Causes of Mobility Impairment in Seniors https://www.newenglandnightingales.com/home-care-in-canton-ct-5-causes-mobility-impairment-seniors/
National Institute on Aging (2017) Balance Problems and Disorders https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/balance-problems-and-disorders
Vann, M.R (2016) The 15 Most Common Health Concerns for Seniors https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/most-common-health-concerns-seniors/