Research on How to Choose a Rollator must of necessity consider the safety features of each model, the benefits and any disadvantages before a final decision should be made.
While rollator walkers are a convenient mobility aid for seniors and the elderly, the design construction harbor some unique safety-related disadvantages which should be understood before a purchase is made. While it is not all cautionary, there are several benefits to be derived from using a rollator walker. Both considerations will be discussed in this article.
Design Features and Safety
Several design features provide enhanced mobility to users, but if not properly operated, can become safety hazards resulting in falls and accidents. Consequently, seniors using rollators MUST ensure they understand all safety precautions before operating their walking aid.
Aging causes changes in bone mass, joints, and muscles. This combination results in an altered curvature of the back vertebrae and poor balance which affects mobility. (William et al. 2012)
Colino (2018) reported that 62% of older adults have an increased risk of recurrent falls. Furthermore, after the age of 45, 1 in 4 adults typically experience foot pain with about 60% suffering debilitating pain
Purchase of a rollator requires research – which is what this article seeks to provide. Sometimes the selection of one style over the other, or the addition of one specific accessory can change the function and safety.
Most people can purchase their walking aid independently or with the assistance of friends or family (Walker Facts 2015). But others may require the help of a therapist who can provide guidance.
How to Choose A Rollator – Weight Bearing
Benefit: Require no lifting unlike traditional walkers
Disadvantage: Not intended to bear weight
There is a maximum weight capacity for most walkers and rollators.
It is, therefore, necessary that the user adheres to these recommended weight limits to avoid falls and accidents.
Rollators are designed for users with balance issues. Consequently, leaning heavily on this walking aid can be a major safety hazard because of its four wheels. Users that lean heavily on the rollator may unexpectedly have the walking aid shift and begin to roll away. This could result in accidents.
How To Choose a Rollator – Four Gliding Wheels
Benefit: Improved Mobility
Disadvantage: Decreased Stability
While the gliding wheels improve mobility over different surfaces, they could glide too quickly over smoother surfaces and cause the user to lose control. This can be very challenging to navigate for seniors with balance difficulties,
Easy to Maneuver
Benefit: Easy to Maneuver and Navigate
Rollator walkers are generally easier to maneuver and navigate through narrow spaces than other traditional walkers. The three-wheeled designs provide an even greater ability to maneuver.
These walking aids are usually heavier than traditional walkers which are made of light aluminum tubes. The challenge is posed by their weight and having to lift them for storage or into a vehicle, but they are sturdier and more stable.
Users that require frequent loading and unloading of their rollator may find this level of handling cumbersome. Although there are lightweight options available, these designs nevertheless are still heavier than standard walkers.
Seniors attempting to lift their rollators independently could accidentally trip and fall, or even damage their back while doing so.
How to Choose A Rollator – Braking System
Benefit: Brakes provide increased stability of the walking aid and serve as an enhanced safety feature for use.
Disadvantage: Seniors with dexterity issues and poor grip may have difficulty using the brakes when needed which could result in accidents.
The brakes in rollator walkers equipped with this feature are not automatic. They are used to reduce the speed of the walker if it begins to move too fast for comfort. They can also be used to bring the walker to a complete halt.
Unfortunately, because they are not automatic, it does require the control for the user for navigation of the rollator. Users must grip the brakes to engage them.
Users that cannot grip well or who cannot respond quickly to grab the brake handles may find rollator walkers challenging to use. Fortunately, many manufacturers provide options for ergonomic handles.
Finally, a major safety hazard comes in the form of not engaging the brakes of the rollator when sitting or standing. The rollator may begin to move and cause the user to tip and fall.
Other Safety Considerations
How To Choose A Rollator – Height of the Rollator
Correct height usage is important, once again, to ensure there are no falls, accidents, or damage to muscles due to strains. Most rollator walkers adjust to fit the design specified range of heights. Standing as tall as full height allows, the rollator must support the user with a minimal strain upon the muscles and bones in their hands, wrists, shoulders, and neck.
The correct adjustment is to have the handles at the height of the wrist when standing with arms relaxed at the side.
Adjustable Seat Height
Most rollators have a built-in seat, and some may even have a backrest as well. This is especially helpful for users who have frequent joint pain and tire easily. Because of this, they require regular stops to rest. The adjustable seat could become a safety hazard if not operated correctly.
There are several models of seats, and depending on the user’s needs, adjustments may be made to the seat height to suit the comfort of the user. There are two options available.
A lower seat adjustment that allows the feet to be placed flat on the floor provides balance and stability, while a higher seat adjustment allows for perching and makes it easier to stand up.
How to Choose A Rollator – Width of Rollator
The width of the rollator walker must provide adequate clearance for the user to step into. There are various options on the market. A senior who walks with feet wider than average will require a rollator walker that is wider than average.
Failure to carefully consider each of these additional design features and operate them correctly could affect safety.
How to choose a rollator? Many design features need to be considered in the selection of a rollator. Fortunately, they are sold with detailed specification sheets that allow a check of many of the design features discussed in this article. Rollators improve the mobility of seniors and the elderly but the very same features that create this enhanced lifestyle can become safety hazards if they are not correctly adjusted for use and may result in falls or accidents.
1. Arthritis Foundation (2020) Osteoporosis https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/osteoporosis
2. Colino, S (2018) The Agony of the Feet as You Get Older. Health USNews
3. Walker Facts (2015) http://www.walker-facts.com/FAQs.asp