We may have launched the Prestige in 2022, but it’s a product that took years to bring to life! Here in a Q&A with Triumph Founder David Mackereth, we trace the origins of this unique new rollator/transport chair from development to delivery.
What was the idea for Prestige?
Fifteen years ago, we wanted to design a rollator slash transport chair. And it sounds really easy, but when you start thinking about it’s very hard. That’s because there’s so many things to consider. We started by asking, what features do we want? We wanted it to be better than what’s out there. If you ever look at people in shopping malls or hospitals, and they’re sitting in a transport chair, they look absolutely miserable. Even when they’re surrounded by their grandkids, they still look miserable.
How did you get started?
Before we started, we talked to a lot of experts. I’ve been serving clients in the mobility space for 25 years, so I’d already heard lots of stories about what worked and what could work better. But I wanted to keep going with this research, so we chose a local retirement community in Ottawa to share early drafts with and ask for suggestions. We also talked to therapists who told us what they thought was needed, and asked dealers about what questions their customers asked most often.
What suggestions did these sources provide?
Users told us that they were looking for comfort with style, and that they needed the switch from rollator to transport chair to be super simple. Therapists said they were looking for something without so many pieces so there was an easier conversion too. Dealers told me that customers had also described how complicated it was.
Another thing we got from the retirement home was people didn’t know how to adjust the brakes. One lady wrapped chunks of foam around her handles and then bandaged it, just so it would be more comfortable. She did it because she said the handles are too low and she didn’t know how to raise it up. That’s the reason behind making sure the handles are easy to move up and down. Most rollators/ transport chairs also have the armrests too high, so your elbow is on a hard metal tube, and it hurts. We tried to get the ergonomics right.
We also wanted all the parts to be attached. Some rollators include transport chair elements, but then you have to remember to take them with you. You have to remember the foot rests, how to fold it up and to take off the seat cushion. And then you try and lift it and there’s no handles or easy grab point to pick it up from.
So with that feedback, we were looking to create something that was easy to use, easy to live with.
How did you get started trying to bring all these ideas together?
The first versions were really ugly. They were chrome-plated, just silver tubes, looked like they should be in a hospital. And they were heavy. So, I met with a design company in Ottawa and told them what I wanted to do. The frame changed a couple of times as we were focused on the features – we built the frame around the features because it was most important to get those right.
Once we had the design, we did a lot of prototyping through 3D printing. We wanted to try and eliminate some of the mistakes before we went into production. Everything from the length of the armrests to the bolt sizes we used. We experimented with the materials; for example, plastic with glass fibre made it really strong but it added lots of weight. So we changed the plastic to make it lighter.
It’s the first time in my history that we’ve ever done a whole project like this. We have drawings for everything. Another experiment was with the backstrap, for example we discovered that adding a quarter of an inch to it made the difference between being just comfortable and “wow, brilliant” – so we changed it.
What elements do you think make the Prestige stand out?
For us, the backstrap was really key. Because on all the other rollator transport chairs, the backstrap is centered so that depending on what position it is, your seat depth is always the same. But we offset it so that our transport chair seat is deeper and our rollator seat is shallower. So you have more room in the full seat mode. And because we made the backstrap flip forward like that, it has to be strong. Most companies just use fabric, which is fine, but it doesn’t have the integrity that ours does. it was really hard finding the right material to make it soft but also durable. We also made the seat with a thicker seat pad so it’s even more comfortable.
We’ve also hidden the cables inside the frame. On most mobility devices, they’re big and looping and come out of the frame at some point, and so they get caught on things, on clothes, and they always get damaged by taxi drivers! With the cables hidden, there’s less chance of a snag and so they should last a long time.
The ergonomic hand grips, the brakes, and the easy folding for transport are other elements that make the Prestige a better product – all of these are a result of listening to our customer.
THE SLEEK STYLE ALSO STANDS OUT – WHY WAS THAT IMPORTANT?
Again, our customer told us that they wanted a product that was stylish, like a piece of furniture that you would leave it in your living room. Or that when you go to your daughter-in-law’s house, even she would be okay that you leave it in her living room, or use it to sit at the dinner table.
Even as we were choosing the materials, we wanted the quality to look like what’s on a car. Most products in this industry, the parts of plastics, are ugly. We’re trying to be better than all of that. When you’re buying the Prestige, we want customers to see it and make a beeline for it.
THE PRESTIGE ALSO COMES WITH SOME ACCESSORIES. HOW WERE THEY CHOSEN?
You can also see some elements that need improvement just from hanging out at the at the shopping mall or swinging by any retirement home. At the mall, you realize that people pile everything on their rollator. The backstrap is mainly used as a clothes hook. So we wanted to add a nice big shopping bag. That’s how that got there.
We’re now the only one that has a transport chair with a basket under the seat. Other rollator/ transport chairs have baskets, but they’re in front of the seat so you’re sitting on them when you are in transport chair mode, and hitting the back of your legs.
Then the slow-down brake, the can holder and cup holder were all no-brainers, again things that our customers have asked for.
YOU ALSO KEPT THE CAREGIVER IN MIND IN DESIGNING THE PRESTIGE – WHAT ELEMENTS ARE FOR THEM?
We wanted the Prestige to be comfortable and easy to use for both the user and the caregiver. Most transport chairs, they don’t have any handle height adjustment. So the caregiver is always bent over.
And if you turn a rollator into a transport chair, your weight is still between the front and the rear wheel. The chair becomes very hard to steer, to push over thresholds and things like that. We not only needed the rollator to be stable, but we need to change this the center of gravity so that all the weight so that you can still turn it with someone sitting in it.
Yet another element that the caregiver cares about is the frame lock, for easy movement into the car. The Prestige stays folded when you fold it, so it’s easier for the caregiver to lift and put in the car.
We know that the user cares about their caregiver, so we wanted to keep them top of mind too.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPEND SO MANY YEARS PERFECTING THE PRESTIGE?
Like it says on our instruction manual, I’m motivated because I want customers to enjoy the journey again. I think you should go out and enjoy every day and I hope that the Prestige will become not your best friend but your companion. I think it improves everybody’s life to have a device that’s an all-in-one piece, comfortable and stylish. If we can put a man on the moon so we must be able to make a new and better transport chair.