How To Choose A Rollator?

A senior's thinking about how to choose a rollator

It’s all about knowing your needs and your options.

For those buying a rollator for the first time, the prospect of finding one that’s the perfect fit can be a challenge. Sometimes you don’t even know what questions to ask! In this post, Triumph President David Mackereth, who has worked in the mobility field for over 25 years, shares some of the advice he provides to clients who are looking for their first rollator.

Think about your needs and measure your space.

Image resource: RawPixel

Before you even hit your local dealer or start browsing online, know yourself and your space. Think about the terrain that you cover in your daily life — are you mostly moving on concrete or do you occasionally hit grass and gravel? Does your home have hardwood or vinyl flooring? Are you covering a fair amount of ground on a daily basis where it would be a good idea to have a seat available? These factors will influence the type of rollator you buy. For example, if you want a comfortable ride over distance or mixed terrain? Consider a larger wheel size. Looking to sit on occasion? Focus on seat padding and durability.

You should also measure the space around your home. What are the widths of the doorways that you go through most often? How wide does your car trunk open for storage? Many rollators fold up but only a few will narrow while you’re on the move to go through a doorway (the Escape has this feature). Measure the seat height of your favourite chair at home as it will provide a sample of your ideal seat height.

Finally, know your own measurements. What is your hip width sitting down? Moreover, how much does a bulky sweater or winter coat add to it? Consider bringing your winter coat to a store!

Test, test, test. And get a brochure to confirm measurements.

Once you have a good idea of your needs and the measurements of your space, it’s time for a visit to your local dealer or a close look at the specifications on several mobility websites. Download or ask your dealer for a brochure — it will list specific measurements that will help you confirm your needs are met.

Find out what kind of material a rollator’s tires are made of — hard plastic will feel shocks more than EVA foam (the stuff they use on running shoes!) that the Escape model uses. Lean on the body of the rollator to ensure that it feels stable and not wobbly. You’ll want to check the weight for lifting into your car, although a lighter weight may mean a less stable feel so you’ll want to balance those factors.

Note how many points on the rollator are adjustable: ideally the back rest and handle heights should have different settings, and the more options the better. Look for handgrips that are anatomical as they are on the Escape model (this means they match your anatomy and spread the pressure out over the width of your hand) making them easy to use. Test how much you need to stretch your hand to add the parking brake.

As you test, make sure the rollator is adjustable to your size. For your height, your hip joint should be almost in line with the handles so your forearm is bent slightly as you grip them. The back rest should be around the middle of your back, not so high that it interferes with your shoulder and not so low that it doesn’t old you securely in the chair. Test the seat height as this is often not adjustable.

What material is the seat made of? A hard-plastic seat with a foam pad on top can offer both support and comfort — the Escape offers this combination.

If you plan to travel, make sure that the rollator folds up easily for transport and stays folded (the Escape has a knob to pull on for easy opening). Some rollators also fold partially for going through narrow doorways.

Make specialized adjustments to personalize your purchase

So many aspects of your rollator can be customized, from your seat height to the handgrip height. Most are a one-time adjustment given the fact that there is one user, so take the time to adjust correctly (you may be able to get your dealer to help with this before leaving the store) and enlist the help of a friend or relative if you can.

Adjust the tension of the handbrakes to something that’s manageable for your own strength. Make sure that the brake works to slow you down, but will still lock the wheels in the parked position so it doesn’t roll away when you are seated. Adjust the backrest so it is at the middle of your back.

Slow down brake can help adjust the speed bursts

You may be able to adjust rollators differently on each side — stroke survivors for example who are stronger on one side may consider adding a slow-down brake accessory to adjust the rollator speed to compensate for more energy from their stronger side. Parkinson’s patients use the slow-down brake to help control their speed bursts.

Once you’ve got your new rollator, take it for a test drive, or several. This will not only get you in the habit of using your new device but also help to identify any further adjustments you should make. You may even find yourself more active than usual!

Checklist

To make it easier for you to remember, we made this checklist. You also can print it out to take it with you when choosing a rollator: