Rolling along…

This page was originally posted (in a substantially longer form – see link at the end), on my website, but it’s generated so much interest I thought it might be useful to give it a wider audience.

As regular readers (of my Ron’s Realm website), will know, because of declining health, I’ve become increasingly housebound over the past year, and that really has to change.

Thing is, I can drive, but when I get to my destination, I can’t walk more than a very short distance. Add the kit I need to take along, say, on a birding trip, and that distance becomes mere yards, but I think I’ve found a solution – a Rollator (or Rolator – no idea which is right – I’ll stick with the former unless I find out it’s wrong).

This is the model I bought, £70, delivered, from Aidmobility (it comes in red, too, but blue is more discreet, especially if I’m birding).

It has 7″ wheels, making it ideal for outdoor use, and the flat-profile tyres will help prevent it sinking in soft ground; 6″ wheels are really only suitable for indoor use, as it’s not just the diameter that’s smaller, they’re thinner, too, making them more prone to snagging in pavement cracks, and digging in on soft ground. They’re not unusable outdoors, but need rather more care.

As you can see, it has a basket under the seat, but I may well replace it with a bag, £7.25 here , as there’s no point in advertising the contents. These guys, by the way, have a massive range of disability and mobility equipment, at reasonable prices. Free delivery, too.

A word about prices – as far as I can see, and I’ve looked at a hell of a lot the last few days, decent design and quality of construction seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the price. Take this one, for example. It’s £59 on that website, but I’ve seen it at a variety of prices up to £120! And this at £139.95, or £64.95 from Aidmobility – exactly the same machine! Nothing at all illegal in any of this – but as a customer you’d do well to vote with your wallet.

My advice – pick a style/model you like and keep looking – you’ll find it at a sensible price before long. Trouble is, you can’t search by name, as different vendors apply different names to the same machines.

I’m wary of eBay – any sensible person would be, I think, but Rollators appear there, too. Mostly, it seems, the same model is offered by a variety of vendors at a variety of prices, but watch out for postage charges on eBay – they can add 40% to the price quite easily. I’d recommend buying from an online specialist, or your local one if you’re lucky enough to have one, and give eBay a miss – the prices aren’t that good anyway. And don’t forget to claim your VAT exemption either, wherever you buy.

And one very important point – make sure the handles can be adjusted to fit you (measure your walking stick/crutch, and ensure there is provision for adjustment either side of that figure). An acquaintance of mine has a Rollator that would be too low for me – and he’s about 6′ 4″ – almost a foot taller than I am. I saw him a few days ago, and he has the handles on their lowest setting and the thought occurred to me – does he actually know they’re adjustable? Then, he’s had it for years, so how can he not know – it beats me.

If I had the money, I’d be sorely tempted by one of these. With all the bells and whistles, it’s expensive, at £245 (though I’ve seen the basic machine at £170), but it’s seriously cool. Trouble is, I wouldn’t be able to attach any of my bits and pieces to it, as I plan to. Ah well, sometimes older designs are more practical and, of course, replacement wheels are widely available and affordable – I doubt the wheels on the cool one are either.

Obviously, Rollators are designed to aid walking. The handles take your weight, and you trundle it along – much easier than using crutches or sticks, and it won’t roll away from you as it has brakes. Also, and this is vital for me, four-wheeled models come with a seat, so I can rest when I need to, not just when there’s a bench or other seat available which, of course, there may not be, or it may already be occupied.

I’ve really needed one of these for years, but I put it off because I thought I’d look like a pillock! OK, I still might, but I don’t care any more what others think, it’s what’s best for me that matters.

Another important aspect, for me, is that it can be used to carry my birding and photographic gear. A rucksack has been fitted to the front, to carry waterproofs and maybe a flask and sarnies, my telescope and tripod can be strapped to the seat to move them to wherever I need to be, and my photographic gear can go under the seat. Note: Whatever you load on to it, make sure you don’t exceed the maximum recommended weight or, better still, stay well under it – my machine will take 19 stone, and I can’t envision getting beyond 16 stone with me and my gear. Notice how cunningly I’ve avoided mentioning my weight? That’s talent, that is!

If you just need support while walking, plus a bag to carry stuff, then a three-wheeled machine may suit. They also take up less room when used indoors, and when stored.

These can be either aluminium or steel, but don’t buy a chrome-plated one – you’ll spend half your life polishing it to keep rust at bay!

This is a cut-down version of the original, which you can find here.