Needed Walker Improvements: More Functionality and Customization

Walkers are a life-saver for many people. They help older adults avoid falls and keep their independence. They also help patients in the hospitals who are recovering from surgeries or illnesses. They fill a need and many probably don’t think to examine the walker any further. However there hasn’t been much innovation in the walker arena in many years. The basic design has changed little and there is definitely room for improvement.

 

Storage and Customization

One of the most common additions you will see on a walker is a bag that has been attached to store items. This can help to lessen the burden of carrying heavy items in pockets. It’s also pretty much essential to transport items from point A to B since you need both hands to use a walker effectively. People add all sorts of bags to the walkers. Some of them are designed especially for walkers, while other are make-shift carryalls. But there’s just got to be a better solution. How are you supposed to carry food, or maybe even a cup of water? Walkers could have cup holders and come equipped with baskets especially designed to meet the needs of the owner. Perhaps when you order your walker you might get to choose your walker basket as a fun way to accessorize. A walker could change from a dull ambulatory aid and medical device into bright and bold accessory for baby boomers.

 

Improved Functionality

How many times have you seen a walker with a couple of dirty old tennis balls stuck on the back legs? Walkers are most likely the biggest cause of damaged tennis balls in the world. But it’s not because people don’t like tennis balls, but rather because tennis balls help fulfill a functional need for walker users: reducing the drag on the floor and eliminating the walker-scrub noise.

There are those that would argue that the legs of walkers are meant to have rubber bottoms so they stop in place and prevent falls. This may be the case, but there needs to be a way to prevent the scrub of the rubber against a tile floor while still allowing the walker to grip the floor when pressure is applied. Tennis balls won’t fulfill this level of functionally, because they cover the entire rubber foot. But what if walker feet were interchangeable and walker owners could select feet based upon their individual wants, needs, and medical recommendations? What if medical device vendors stepped up to the plate and made walkers a little more functional and maybe even fashionable?

Many walker users have come close to falling when passing over the bumps at curbs that signal the blind they are entering a street.  Walkers that have small wheels can get stuck and fall over when they hit these bumps.  Most walkers with larger wheels do not fold up so they can be easily put into a car.  There is probably a good way to satisfy both needs.  Baby carriages have seen huge advances in design. Why not walkers?

 

Aging with Dignity, Grace, and Style

Walker owners and healthcare professionals can make their voices heard and let medical device vendors know that walker design needs to be improved. Walkers may serve a purpose as is, but there is also room for improvement. Simple additions like a storage solution, cup holder, or customizable feet could go a long way toward improving owner satisfaction for these vital medical devices. Walker owners deserve to age with dignity, grace, and style. Some needed upgrades to stale medical devices can help make this happen.

 

How to Choose a Rollator

How to choose a rolling walker (rollator) is a topic that comes up often in our Longevity Explorer circles. One of the older adult members of the Longevity Explorers had been researching this topic in order to purchase a rollator for a family member. He pulled together a detailed presentation explaining all the different features available ina rollator and how to select the best rollator for a specific person.

You can see the presentation here:
Rollator feature comparisons

 

 

 

 

Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions

Comments

 

from jschrempp (member) at Mar 6 2016 - 3:18pm

I came across this video of ways to improve child strollers. I wonder if some might apply to walkers. Particularly the tips on using tennis racket grip tape, zip ties on the wheels, and reflective tape on the sides.

http://www.faithtap.com/6049/using-your-stroller-to-the-fullest-potential/

Jim

 

from Rhonda (member) at Mar 31 2014 - 9:57am

From a therapists perspective the following items need to be included in walker designs:

1- A walker needs to be light enough so that it can be picked up and put in a car, however it should not be too light! If it is too light it is not helpful to hold someone upright, but will simply tip over if a person starts to fall.

2-Large wheels are helpful for navigating indoor rugs & thresholds & uneven pavement outdoors.

3-For Rollator-style walkers front wheels that are designed to rotate 360 degrees are ideal for most users. Some manufacturers have placed a locking mechanism on the front wheels (that rotate 360 degrees) so the user has the option to keep them fixed in a forward position if desired.

4- If it is a Rollator style walker it should be designed so that it can stand upright by itself when folded. (Many Rollators are not designed to stand when folded & will fall over when placed in a folded upright position - frustrating for a user who is sitting in a restaurant & wants to fold the walker & place it out of the aisle.)

Tennis Balls on the Back...

For Standard Walkers: There are plastic walker glides people can attach to the bottom of the walker that function like tennis balls. Walkers have also been designed with spring loaded balls placed in the bottom of the walker's back legs.  When walking forward the balls glide. If a person is falling & puts weight on the walker the balls retract inside the legs, leaving only rubber edges so it won't roll. These walkers with the spring loaded balls never caught on. I am not sure why. Bad advertising? Or did too much grit get caught inside with the balls preventing them from rolling...?

Exchangeable feet

Technically the wheels on a standard walker can already be exchanged using a screw driver.  People can apply smaller or larger wheels to a standard walker frame. The problem is that it is not quick and easy to do so, so most people will put one size wheel, or a 'flat bottomed walker leg' on and use it everywhere.  The idea of making this more easily exchangeable has some merit. I can foresee a few ways this might be done. The ideal would be to shoot for creating a walker that has legs/wheels that don't need to be removed, but just inherently work well in all situations - indoors or outdoors - for the majority of people. 

Bags & Transport of Items

There are already many bags, cupholders, clip on trays, baskets etc designed for 'standard walkers' that allow users to carry dinner plates, cups etc.  If the user has the physical skills to use a 'Rollator-style' walker, then these usually come with a seat, which makes a great place to put plates etc for transport.

Podnarover

 I like the idea of the podnarover. Without having tested it, my first concern would be whether the three wheels will give enough support on  slightly sloped, uneven terrain. It 'looks' like it will fold up easily & ideally be light enough for someone to pick up and easily place in the car.

Good Walker Design

An example of a walker that I like as a therapist: Escape Rollator by Triumph. Triumph has also released a new, modern rollator/transport  chair, which I have not tested yet, but believe looks interesting as well. See: http://www.triumphmobility.com/rollators/

Rhonda Bonecutter, OTR/L

 

from Inna Zatulovsky (member) at Mar 14 2014 - 3:06pm

Hi Elaine,

This is a great looking walker. I was wondering when the new, contamporary looking walker will appear and will change the image of the person who are using it. Assuming that it safe and worked as designed I am curious to know how much it will cost.

Great job!

Inna

 

from podnarover@gmail.com (member) at Feb 3 2014 - 9:12pm

Walt, I believe my 3 wheeled walker prototype solves safety challenges.  I am trying to secure funding for the final buildout of prototypes before going into production.  Please have a look at the website: podnarover.com

Elaine Levin


 

Topics: 
Key words: 
walkers, improvements

Written by: Walt Maclay. Posted: Jan 25 2014 - 6:38pm. 

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