People with limited mobility can recover a good bit of their freedom with a rollator. The rolling mobility aids help the elderly or those with mobility problems to live an independent life and move unaided inside and outside their own home.
Amazingly enough, the clever invention by Aina Wifalk from Sweden is not at all old. Herself a polio sufferer, it was in 1978 that she came upon the idea of a mobile walking aid. Germany's first rollators came on the scene from the early 1990s. Today around half a million rollators are financed by the health insurance funds every year. The rolling walker is beneficial to both senior citizens and also young people suffering from Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis. Moreover, rollators are finding increasingly frequent use in therapy and rehabilitation.
Rollators are not a substitute for a wheelchair: instead they are literally a walking aid. They are always appropriate when it's a case of walking safely, while also letting the user take short breaks; they can even be used to carry shopping and luggage. In contrast to crutches, a rollator offers a firm hold as it always stands firmly on the ground.
Its design is conceivably simple: a robust light alloy tubular frame with four wheels at the bottom and two handles at the top that can be adjusted in height. The front wheels should pivot to make steering easier. Safety is provided by two independent brakes: a parking brake for anchoring the rollator firmly, and a service brake that is briefly actuated on releasing the handles.
Accessories such as a seat, back rest, tray, stick or umbrella holder and shopping basket make the rollator a practical helper for dealing with everyday chores.
Weight plays a crucial role, given the repeated need to lift the rollator when putting it in the car for example or getting on a bus or train. It should not weigh more than about 9 kg, including the wheels and a shopping basket.
It should also be easy to handle, with the possibility of collapsing and carrying the rollator without any great effort. A collapsing guard should prevent the collapsing mechanism from triggering while in use, which could cause the user to fall. Many models can be collapsed in such a way that they stand freely in collapsed state, thus providing the user with a support if necessary. A memory function helps to adjust the rollator again quickly to the right handle height.
A tip-assist makes it easier to overcome hindrances. It consists of a small step on the frame near the rear wheels. Always take the rollator right up to the hindrance, apply the brakes and press the tip-assist with your foot to raise the two front wheels. Then release the brake handle again so that the rollator can move forwards with the front wheels raised.
Good tyres absorb the jolts of an uneven path and protect the user's shoulders and hands. It should be quick and easy to replace the wheels if the rollator is to be used both indoors and outdoors.
Ergonomic handles are also needed for a back-friendly posture and to make it easier to stand up. The shape of the handles permits different positions of the hand when holding and grasping the rollator. This relieves the pressure on hands and shoulders so that even those with hand problems can walk without getting fatigued. In addition, the gait is automatically more upright and thus more back-friendly. When sitting on the rollator, the handles act as armrests. Their ergonomic shape offers great stability and security when standing up from a chair.
It must be possible for the user to sit safely and comfortably from time to time to have a rest. In this situation, the rollator must stand firmly with the brakes fully applied, and have a non-slip seat that won't tilt. Different seat heights must be possible with a maximum load rating of at least 125 kg.
A padded back strap with adjustable height, depth and turning angle is a good addition to a rollator. The strap relieves the back when the user is sitting on the rollator, fosters an upright sitting position and prevents the body from leaning too far back.
Some rollators have an LED alarm. It is fitted above the wheels at the front on the left and right and makes it possible for other road users to see the rollator when it is dark and in limited visibility. A sensor ensures that the light is switched on automatically when the rollator is moved in the dark. An acoustic signal sounds if the rollator tips over to the right or left. This function is important by drawing attention to the situation if the user falls and needs help.
Rollators with lower arm supports fulfil a special purpose. They act as a safe support for those with gait restrictions and people who are unsteady on their feet as a result of dizziness, cerebral contusion or multiple sclerosis. These rollators are also suitable for those users who don't have sufficient strength in their hands to push a standard rollator or who need assistance when standing up straight or who need relief for the upper part of their body (after heart or back surgery).
The height-adjustable arm rests can be adapted to every user. The rollator thus offers the possibility of independent mobility without the help of a second person.