How to choose the right Wheeled Walking Frame (Wheelie Walker)
(Part 1 in a special Home Instead series on Mobility Aids)
There are many reasons for getting a “wheelie walker’. If you are having difficulty walking or need a bit of support, they are ideal. They can be used inside and out and folded out of the way when not in use, or placed in the boot or back seat when you’re travelling. There are lots of different wheeled walking frames to choose from, so it’s best to look at factors such as your mobility, your budget and your day-to-day needs. For example, if you have to carry things like shopping, make sure you get one with a basket, and if walking tires you quickly, look for one with a seat so you can take short rests.
First things first: 3 or 4 wheels?
The first choice you have to make is 4 wheels or 3?
If you have good balance, you could opt for a three-wheeler as they are smaller, lighter, less obtrusive and easier to steer.
On the downside, they don’t usually have seats, they do tend to tip more easily and if they haven’t been fully unfolded, they can collapse on you. To avoid this, look for one with an automatically locking supporting strut, or “Unlocked” indicator.
Ease of folding/ unfolding.
The last thing you want is to struggle to get your wheelie walker folded or unfolded.
Some models are hard to fold, so there is a danger of overbalancing or getting your fingers caught, while others don’t stay standing up when folded making them more awkward.
Tip: Ask the salesperson to show you how it folds and try it yourself a few times. If it’s too tricky, move on.
Getting to grips.
It’s important that the hand grips are comfortable, so choose wisely. Choose from straight hand grips, some lightly padded, some with soft foam handles and others with ergonomic grips designed to fit your hand. Try them for size, thickness and comfort first. Tip: Try them for a few minutes and walk around with them.
What’s stopping you?
Brakes are one of the biggest safety features of any wheelie walker. They can come with lever hand brakes like on a bike, or pressure brakes that work by using your weight to press down. The latter only stay on while you are pushing, whereas lever brakes can be locked on to keep them steady when you sit down. Tip: Make sure you can stretch your fingers all the way around the hand brakes and apply enough pressure to stop.
Take a seat.
All 4-wheel walking frames have seats, usually made from padded fabric, wood or plastic. Try them out for comfort & stability and to see what suits you best, making sure they are the right height so you can easily sit down and get up again.
Some seats have adjustable backrests which also need to be at the right height.
Too hard basket?
Most modern frames have a bag or basket, either at the front or under the seat. When buying, check to make sure it’s easy to get to, and whether it needs to come off before folding. If you’re worried about things being stolen, look for ones that can be zipped closed or hard to get at.
These include trays, drinks holders, walking stick holders, ‘slow down’ brakes (to stop the frame getting away from you on slopes) and holds for umbrellas and oxygen cylinders.
- Is the walking frame suitable for the places you will be using it?
- Will you be using it indoors?
- Will it fit in your home?
- Will it go through your door?
- Will it fit in your boot/ backseat of your car?
- Will you be using it outdoors?
- If you have sloping or uneven ground, will it be all right on that?
- Is the walking frame suitable for someone of your size?
- Is it the right height for you, or can it be adjusted?
- Have you tried it out?
- Is it comfortable?
- Is it strong enough to support your weight?
- Will you need to fold the walking frame?
- If so, can you fold and unfold it safely and can you pick it up when it’s folded?
- Can you tell when it is securely unfolded?
- Did you ‘try before you buy’…
- Try the hand grips for as long as you can. Will they be comfortable?
- Try the brakes. Make sure you can work them.
- Try the seat for comfort and for stability.
- Try getting things in or out of the bag or basket…
- Is it easy enough?
- Will you have to unpack it to fold the walking frame?
For assistance and advice on wheeled walking frames (wheelie walkers) or any mobility aid, chat to the team at Home Instead. If we don’t have the answer on hand, we’ll find out and get straight back to you. Call 1300 008 018 or contact us to find out the number of your nearest Home Instead local office.