Rollator walkers are popular with seniors who need a mobility aid to stay independent and safe. They’re helpful around the house and around town, keeping seniors healthy and active. Some people think rollators aren’t as safe as a normal walker or cane, but this is actually not the case!
Rollator walkers are a very safe mobility aid, in almost every context. In this article, you’ll learn more about rollator walkers, what makes them safe, and find 11 helpful rollator safety tips to keep you protected at all times. So, let’s get started!
What is a Rollator Walker?
A rollator walker is a three or four-wheeled walker that prevents people from falling while walking.
Typically, rollator walkers also include a seat and backrest so that the user can rest while they are using it. They are heavily favored by many seniors because they’re much more convenient than standard walkers or canes; they are proven to help people move farther and faster than those more conventional mobility aids.
Rollators help the user feel more like they’re actually walking when compared with a regular walker. They don’t require the user to lift or drag every step; this is a great benefit for people who have injuries or other limitations that make it hard to lift a walker every time they take a step.
The ability to rest during a walk is another feature that makes rollators the preferred mobility aid for many seniors. Users don’t have to cut trips short due to fatigue or pain; they can simply rest whenever they need to, and go about their day at their own pace!
Are Rollator Walkers Safe for the Elderly?
Because they’re on wheels, rollator walkers make some seniors hesitate, wondering whether or not a normal walker would provide more stability. While It’s true that rollators aren’t quite as stable as a normal walker, they are considered safe for the elderly.
Rollator walkers are equipped with two brakes, one on each handlebar, that can be engaged with even a light squeeze. This will bring the rollator to a complete stop; most rollators also have a “brake lock” feature, similar to a car’s parking brake, that will hold the brakes in place.
Rollator walkers are also designed in a way that they have a low center of gravity that makes them hard to tip. They can and will tip if used improperly, but they do not do so easily. In nearly every circumstance, a rollator walker is just as stable as a normal walker, and more stable than canes or crutches.
Those safety features, combined with the ability to sit and rest when needed, actually make rollator walkers a safer mobility aid than any other for many seniors. A traditional walker may have slightly more stability, but can be dangerous when you need to take a rest but don’t have the energy to get to a chair or bench. Crutches and canes are helpful, too, but make it very hard to maintain your balance; crutches, specifically, are very tiring to use.
Rollator walkers are one of the safest forms of mobility aid. Just like any mobility aid, they can be dangerous when used incorrectly. However, user error should never be used as a reason to classify something as unsafe. As long as you aren’t reckless, “user error” is very unlikely to ever come into play!
Can You Push Someone in a Rollator?
Because rollator walkers have wheels and a seat, it can be tempting to have someone push you in it, as if it were a wheelchair. This, however, is a straightforward bad idea. You should never push someone, or be pushed by someone, in a rollator walker.
They simply aren’t made for this; doing so makes it very likely that the rollator will tip. Even a slight bump in the sidewalk at too high a speed can result in a painful fall! If your health or rehabilitation needs make you think you’ll need to be pushed, it’s better to get a wheelchair.
Rollators are designed to keep you independent and moving on your own, not as a device for someone to help you move. Wheelchairs, on the other hand, are safe for pushing yourself and being pushed!
Who Approves Rollator Safety?
In the United States, mechanical walkers are a category of mobility aid that rollators fall into. These devices are registered with the FDA to be used as medical devices; this means that they meet safety and durability requirements set by the federal government.
There is an important note to make here: just because rollators are recognized by the FDA as medical devices does not mean all rollators are FDA cleared or approved. Rollators and other walkers are exempt from that requirement, so all that is needed is registration.
Registering a company with the FDA is a light form of accountability that ensures companies will produce safe medical devices. If anything suspicious were found to be happening, the FDA would have access and legal authority to correct the situation. This means you can trust your rollator purchase even without the “FDA Approved” stamp.
There are rollators that have gone through the extra step to be cleared or approved by the FDA, though! If you don’t feel comfortable choosing a non-FDA approved rollator, be prepared to search a little harder- and perhaps pay a little more- for your rollator. For example, this rollator, available on the Walmart website, is one of the only FDA-approved rollators you can order online.
In a sentence, the FDA is responsible for approving rollator safety, and manufacturers must register with the FDA even though the walkers don’t have to be approved for sale.
What are the Best Tips for Using a Rollator Safely?
The best rollator safety tips all center around one idea: appropriate use. Using your rollator incorrectly will nullify all the safety features that it has. If you take the time to read your rollator’s instructions, and are mindful when you’re out and about, you can avoid any costly mistakes while using a rollator walker.
Here are 11 of the best rollator safety tips for seniors:
1. Get the Right Rollator the First Time
Not all rollators are made equally. Some are made for petite users; others have height and weight capacities that can fit just about anyone on earth. Before buying your rollator, check the height and weight capacities, as well as the seat height.
If you are taller than 6’3”, shorter than 5’1”, or weigh more than 275 pounds, you will want to pay close attention to these specifications. Failing to do this can result in discomfort and pain because the rollator won’t fit you correctly and will hurt your posture. Before you buy a rollator, always make sure it will fit you!
2. Stand and Sit Safely
When you go to stand up into your rollator, you should be careful not to put all your weight on the rollator. You should also be sure not to pull yourself up from a seat using the rollator; it will tip very easily.
Rather, you should use your legs to stand, and only push your arms down on the rollator to handle the weight that your legs cannot. This will be much more natural than trying to force the rollator to hold all your weight while standing, and much safer.
Likewise, when sitting down, either onto the rollator seat or another chair/couch, use your legs as much as possible. The rollator can provide assistance, but it is easy to lose your center of gravity if you put too much pressure on the walker. The best way to avoid tipping or falling is to avoid asking the rollator to do more work than your legs!
Lastly, when sitting or standing, always remember to ensure the brakes are locked before putting any weight on the rollator! Forgetting to do this is a major cause of rollator accidents!
3. Don’t Put All Your Weight on the Rollator
This is true not only when sitting/standing, but also when walking. If you need to lean on the rollator for balance or rest, you can do so. Keep in mind, though, that putting all of your weight on the rollator can cause it to slide out from under you, resulting in a nasty fall.
If you find yourself needing to lean significantly on the rollator for rest or balance, it is better to sit down than to put all your weight on it.
4. Use Caution in New Areas
If you’re out for a walk in nature, or in a place that is unfamiliar to you, walk slower than you normally would. You never know what changes in terrain or slope are ahead. Keeping a slower pace will help you adjust to unforeseen obstacles without risking a fall.
5. Watch Your Speed
Having wheels on your walker can be a great temptation. They’re so easy to push that you may want to walk faster and faster, either for pleasure or convenience. Doing so, however, increases the chances that you’ll have an accident by losing control of the rollator or losing your center of gravity. So, it’s best to keep a moderate-to-slow pace with your rollator.
6. Keep the Rollator Close While Walking
If you hold the rollator at arm’s length in front of you, it won’t do you much good when a potentially dangerous scenario arises. If you stumble, for instance, you will only push the rollator further out in front of you and fall forward to the ground.
Having the rollator too far ahead of you also makes using the brakes difficult; they’re harder to reach and less effective at stopping your momentum.
To stay safe using your rollator, keep it closer to you, with your arms bent at an angle, so you’ll always be able to engage the brakes and lean on it when you need to!
7. Keep Your Fingers on the Brakes
This is a simple tip that can help you respond quickly to unforeseen obstacles or changes in balance. If your fingers aren’t around the brake handles, you won’t be able to engage them in time to avoid turning a stumble into something worse.
8. Lock Brakes When Not Moving
Just like engaging your car’s parking brake when parked on a hill, you never want to forget to lock your rollator walker’s breaks when you stop. This applies to short rests when you remain standing and longer rests using the rollator seat.
It also applies, perhaps most especially, when standing or sitting. Forgetting to do this can send the rollator flying away from you when you need it to hold you most.
Never forget to lock your rollator’s brakes! This is the single best rollator safety tip there is!
9. Avoid Escalators and Stairs
Theoretically, it is possible to go up or down stairs and escalators with your rollator, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. It’s much more dangerous than using the stairs or escalator without a rollator! On steep slopes, either uphill or downhill, using a rollator isn’t as safe as simply walking without assistance. So, it’s best to plan your route accordingly to stay safe!
If you have to use the stairs, remember that your rollator will become a liability, not an asset. You’ll want to rely on slow, cautious movements and the handrails on the stairs for safety rather than the rollator.
Whenever possible, use an elevator. When that isn’t possible, have someone assist you up and down the stairs, bringing the rollator along with you.
10. Turn Carefully
You never want to twist your back when turning with the rollator; this can result in pulled muscles and falls. Similarly, it’s also a bad idea to pivot your body away from the rollator while turning, since you lose the ability to balance yourself.
Take slow turns with your rollator, and perform “three-point” turns when you need to, just as you would with your car in a tight space. Neglecting this tip can result in you feeling foolish at best and injured at worst!
11. Inspect Your Rollator Often
You’ll always want to check your rollator for broken, damaged, or worn out parts once or twice a month. Most of the time, these repairs or replacements will be covered by your warranty or Medicare/Medicaid. The only thing you risk by not inspecting your rollator is your own health!
Conclusion: Rollator Safety Tips
Rollator walkers seem like an unstable mobility aid option to some, but they’re actually one of the safest ways for seniors to stay independent and active. Rollators, when they’re used properly, are stable, safe, and beneficial to your health.
In fact, most rollator safety tips revolve around the concept of being mindful and responsible with your rollator. If you’ve learned something about rollator safety, or have some suggestions on how to properly use your rollator, let us know in the comment section below!