When you hear ‘walking frame’ you probably think of the old silver “Zimmer” frames that have been around for decades. These types of frames are still used around the home or other stable terrains, however, there is a much more suitable alternative for people who need to venture outdoors, to the shops and beyond. These types of frames are often referred to as rollators.
Rollators- also known as ‘wheely walkers’, ‘four-wheeled walkers’ and ‘walkers with brakes’- are more stable outdoors due to a robust frame and heavy-duty wheels. They often come with a variety of features that differ from model to model. The standard complement includes a seat, storage of some kind (either a vinyl bag or metal basket) and a braking system.
A rollator is an effectively a walking frame with wheels, brakes and often contain a seat and a basket. They are very popular to use indoors and outdoors and come in a variety of models and types. Generally, the two main categories of rollators are hand-brake and push-down (or compression) brake. The mobility shops have rollators for the very tall or short, average or bariatric weight capacity- even rollators that can double as a transport wheelchair!
The most common type of brake system found on a rollator is ‘hand brakes’. These are similar to those found on a bicycle and operate in the same way, with one minor exception: a rollator’s brake lever can also be pressed “downwards” to lock-on so that the unit does not move when the user takes a seat. Other systems worth noting are push-down brakes, commonly used by people who cannot operate the handles and ‘skis’ \ ‘skids’ which are sometimes applied in lieu of a brake where friction is utilized as a method of slowing the walker down.
These walkers– like any product- also come in a variety of qualities. You can buy them from most mobility shops, who will often sell genuine brands used in hospitals and aged care facilities. Be wary of products purchased from shopping centers, some chemists, etc. which may work safely for a period, though cannot be serviced \ repaired when the brakes eventually wear down and the unit is out of warranty (or never had one, to begin with!)
Finally, make sure you buy the right rollator for the task at hand. A couple of questions that should be considered are:
- Where do you want to use the rollator: predominantly indoors, or more outside? [Indoors I would recommend a 4 – 6-inch wheel diameter, outdoors an 8-inch wheel offers better stability].
- How tall is the person using the walker? [Most rollators boast height adjustable handles, but the seat heights are not movable. If someone too short was to sit thereon their legs would dangle uncomfortably].
- How heavy is the person using the rollator? [Weight limits vary from model to model, the average standard cut-off is 100kg, but there are models that can take 125 \ 150 \ 200+kgs].
- Do you need to transport the unit (to go to shops, Doctors, etc). [Some of the cheaper models of rollator do not fold, whereas the higher end products offer extra features such as folding and \ or removable backrests for convenience].
If serviced occasionally, and the unit is cared for and looked after appropriately, it is not uncommon to get 3 – 5 years (or more) from a good quality machine. However, you must keep in mind that a rollator walker is like a pair of shoes: just because you spent $XXX on it doesn’t mean it will last forever. They are a consumable that will need to be replaced eventually. And if you do the math you will probably find that your wheeled friend has been good value-for-money.