There are various options to choose from when it comes to Walking Aids for the Elderly in Ireland.
Waking Frames – Number of Wheels
One of the basic features separating walking frames is the number of wheels. There are 4 wheeled, 3 wheeled, and 2 wheeled versions and each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
It is important to understand these to ensure you choose the aid most suited to your needs.
4 Wheeled Walking Aid
The 4 wheeled walking frame offers a smooth ride on just about any surface and also generally allows the user to travel at a quicker pace.
This type of walker does put some people off as they wonder “How am I going to stop the frame from getting away from me?”
Any walker with 4 wheels requires brakes and the brakes need to be easy to use and trustworthy. Hand brakes are commonly used, similar to those on bicycles and they often have the ability to be locked – a parking brake of sorts.
4 Wheel Walkers
Anyone who has difficulty with their hands due to conditions such as arthritis needs to be careful with brakes such as these.
Another feature to consider on 4 wheeled walkers is if the wheels are fixed, swivel, or both.
Some frames have the front 2 wheels fixed facing forwards with only the back two swiveling to allow turning. This means the frame need to be steered like a car.
Other versions have all four wheels swiveling, essentially allowing the frame to be moved any direction, including sideways. This makes maneuvering easier but the extra freedom can make some people feel unsafe.
For those unsure or with changing needs, some frames have front wheels that can either be fixed or swivel.
3 Wheel Walking Frames
3 wheeled walking frames have the advantage of being able to be used in tight spaces. They fit through narrow doorways and can turn sharply when required.
3 Wheel Walkers
If transporting the frame or storage space is also an issue, they often fold up to a much smaller size than 4 wheeled frames. They use the same braking systems as 4 wheeled frames but do not offer the same accessory options such as large carrying baskets and seats.
Two Wheeled Walking Aid
2 wheeled walking frames look similar to 4 wheeled frames but the back two wheels are replaced by stoppers.
When the frame is pushed forward in normal use, the wheels help it travel forward and the rear stoppers slide over the ground as they are unweighted.
2 Wheel Walkers
If the frame gets too far in front of the user, or they lean on it for more support, the back stoppers become weighted and stop the frame from moving.
This in effect provides an automatic braking mechanism. 2 wheeled frames are therefore good for those with arthritic hands that may find brake use difficult, they also give a greater feeling of stability for those nervous about their mobility.
The disadvantages are that maneuverability is more difficult as the front wheels are always fixed facing forward, and on some surfaces the rear stoppers “bounce” a little rather than smoothly sliding across the floor when moving forward.
A bariatric rollator is designed for the heavier user. All mobility frames have a safe maximum working load and cheaper frames in particular often have a weight rating insufficient for many people.
Standard walking frames can have a load capacity of 225 pounds while specialist Bariatric Rollators can manage 600 pounds.
Bariatric Rollators also have additional features such as extra wide seats that still allow the frame to fit through standard doorways.
The design of bariatric walking frames is the same as regular models with the increased strength achieved through the reinforced metal frame.
They come with a seat to let the user take rests when required but make sure you get one with a padded seat as they quickly become uncomfortable without sufficient cushioning.
Overview of Walking Aids
4 Wheeled Walking Frames
Fast, Smooth, Maneuverable, Compatible with added features. Good for mobile people looking for a little extra support.
Wide, Not suitable if hands can’t work brakes, Fear of frame getting away from some users.
3 Wheeled Walking Frames
Fast, Smooth, Maneuverable, Fits into tight spaces, Folds up into small unit, Good for mobile people looking for a little extra support.
Not suitable if hands can’t work brakes, Fear of frame getting away from some users. Less supportive than “square” frames. Usually without seat option.
2 Wheeled Walking Frames
“Automatic” braking. Feels more stable. Good for those with hand dexterity issues. Compatible with added features. Good for nervous people or those looking for more support.
Harder to maneuver, Rear stoppers may skip or bounce.