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"Keep Rolling" Campaign

A multi-pronged campaign to promote the use of “rollators” among oldsters who need moderate assistance when walking.

Photo of Gregg

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

For people who need more support when walking than provided by a cane, particularly when going outdoors.

This will be a multi-pronged campaign to promote the use of “rollators” among oldsters who need moderate assistance when walking.  Four-wheeled rollators with hand-activated brakes provide far more support than canes and are much better suited than two-wheeled “walkers” for traversing moderate distances, particularly outdoors. Thus they promote both exercise and socialization.  

True Example: I have a 95-year-old neighbor who, during good weather, heads out with his Ferrari-red rollator to a deli sandwich shop three blocks away, via a less-than-perfect sidewalk with a modest incline. Once his order is filled, he puts his plate on the rollator seat and navigates to an outdoor table, where he enjoys the scenery and passing neighbors who stop to chat with him. At home, he is probably steadier because such exercise builds strength and balance. None of this would happen without the rollator—he is too frugal to take a cab three blocks and the ride wouldn’t provide exercise.

Although the price of rollators is modest (about $60-$200 USD), there are several barriers to use by those who could benefit from them, including denial of their physical impairments, vanity, and lack of understanding of the potential benefits.

The “Keep Rolling” Campaign would have multiple components to address these barriers:

  • A public-service advertising campaign with celebrity endorsements will help counter the resistance.  When Betty White, Pele, Sophia Loren, and Pope Francis are shown happily using rollators, awareness will be raised and the stigma will decline.  
  • Testimonials by less famous users will highlight the advantages and provide user advice.
  • Annual styling contests, for the coolest custom paint jobs and decoration, will publicize rollators and add a “fun factor.” One year the categories might be “Macho,” “Frilly,” and “Androgynous’” in other years they might be movie-themed, humorous, or proclaim one’s sporting team loyalty.  
  • Annual “road test” reviews of the latest models will help purchasers find the ones that would best suit their needs.
  • Occasional surveys of users will highlight the main sources of satisfaction and reveal shortcomings that manufacturers will be urged to address in the future.
  •  Design competitions every five years or so will encourage functional improvements in rollators. An example of such improvement is Phillip Goebel’s “Sensor Enabled Walking Frames” proposed for this OpenIdeo Challenge, which could give rollator users warnings when their gait is becoming dangerous and feedback on how to correct it.  

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

The best way to get this rolling would be for the AARP Magazine or Bulletin to publish an article with (a) testimonials and tips from users, (b) road test reviews of five or six widely available models, and (c) the announcement of a styling contest in which users would submit photos of custom painted or otherwise decorated rollators, with winners announced later. The preliminary impacts would be assessed by comments on the article and sales trends data from Amazon and other major distributors.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Please offer suggestions for refining and expanding this idea—anything that would increase the use of rollators by people who are likely to benefit from them.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a retired social scientist and professor. I have worked on civil rights issues, education reform, and job training, and also taught evaluation methodology. Since retiring, I have helped a few elderly neighbors accommodate to declines in their capabilities.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Gregg for sharing your idea. It reminded me the idea posted by Jack DeFuria and his team on cane day:

Regarding the rollators I'm curious to know what is the feedback or your observations about people using rollators. Rodney Lobo and Dawn Feldthouse did empathy exercises during the research phase that might be of interest to you and suggested that there might be a need to redesign the device:

they both are working on a team on redesigning a device:

Photo of Gregg

Anne-Laure: Thanks for your comments.
I had read Jack DeFuria's "Cane Day" idea when I first joined OpenIDEO and it did influence me some. We are both trying to counter the stigma and lack of information about mobility aids, although in respect to different aids. He, however, has chosen to focus on organizing local efforts and seeking media coverage of them, whereas I have proposed to use the huge reach of AARP's publications. The latter is more efficient, although critically dependent on the cooperation of one organization. My hope is, whether or not my idea wins the challenge, that AARP will give it a try. And if they agree to, perhaps they can be persuaded to work similarly with Jack to reduce the stigma of canes.
Empathy exercises are an interesting approach for designers, journalists, and advocates. I have instead proposed "road tests" of common models of rollators. Because of the word limit on the submissions, I didn't state that they would be conducted with both experienced users of rollators and people who had considered using them but have not yet decided. The road tests would be over several conditions for which rollators are intended--long hallways, malls, sidewalks, street crossing, subway systems with elevators, and relatively flat lawn and hard dirt surfaces. The test drivers would be observed and debriefed.
Rodney Lobo's and Dawn Feldhouse's idea aims to eliminate the stigma of using a two-wheeled walker (which is different than a four-wheeled rollator in several ways--see the photos), by basing it on, and having it look, like a common folding shopping cart. It is a clever approach, but I doubt that they can make it anywhere as supportive as two-wheeled walkers or rollators, which have vertical support points both in front and behind the user's grip, and that reduces the chance of the device tiling fore or aft when the user leans down on it. In any case, while they are trying to camouflage a two-wheeled walker, I am proposing to tackle the stigma or rollators head-on with images of older people happily using them to enjoy the pleasures of life they could not otherwise access, with road test reports to highlight desirable features of these devices, and with user styling contests to add fun and whimsey.

Photo of Lillian J Warner

@Gregg thanks for this post. Like Anne-Laure Fayard mentioned, I see a lot of great overlap between your idea, Cane Day [UPDATED] , and A Safe Shopping Cart . A Safe Shopping Cart is a way of fighting stigma through a reimagined device, and your campaign fights stigma through positive and dynamic representations of roller devices. I could imagine a Safe Shopping Cart being highlighted in your proposed campaign. The annual styling contest you propose also connects to Customizable Fashion Sticks . I wonder how we can maximize the potential of the overlap between the ReImagined Devices and Soften the Stigma categories?

Photo of Gregg

Lillian: Yes, all the ideas that you have mentioned have similarities to mine and also add new complementary components. For instance, the idea could include canes, rollators, and walkers; it could include "road tests," endorsements, and styling contests; and it could include both national and local efforts. I would welcome creating a joint idea, if the authors of those other ideas were interested in doing that, but I don't know if it is possible at this stage of the Challenge and I don't know how we would go about arranging it. Can anyone provide clarification?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Gregg. I like the idea of going for AARP and use their network. I don't think Jack and his team were going for the local only. They just thought of starting with a pilot.
My point about the empathy exercise was to highlight the issues they met and also the issues with current walkers that were mentioned during the research phase in several posts. I am not an expert but I was wondering if the solution was only about trying to convince people to use these devices without acknowledging the issues they have and trying to redesign them (several ideas posted in the challenge try to do this; note that this is not Rodney Lobo and Dawn Feldthouse  focus but I am inviting them in this comment so that they can read your comments on their idea as there are a lot of great points). So my point was just asking how we can not only soften the stigma but also make the devices more user-friendly (for example by including the hacking workshops to rethink some of the features). Thanks!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Gregg, great to see you open to refining your idea and connecting with others suggested by Lillian as well as by Kate with the Hacking Mobility Aids Workshops. You can definitely contact people who posted other ideas and ask them if they would be willing to join your team and have you incorporate part of their ideas in yours. If your idea was selected for refinement, you could then edit it accordingly. You won't be able to create any new idea at this point of the chalenge. However, even if not selected for refinement, this should not prevent you from exploring the idea further (alone or with others) and trying to pilot it. I hope this helps. Kate Rushton any other suggestions?

Photo of Lillian J Warner

Hi Gregg -- collaboration is self driven at this point. Someone who wants to collaborate on this platform can reach out to someone via a comment to see if they'd like to merge ideas. Then someone is usually the designated "idea updater" on the OI platform. The functionality of OI right now only lets one person update, so many people choose to use Google Docs to edit text/ideas together and then one person is responsible for making those updates on OI. There is no pressure to collaborate either! Whatever works for you. It is good to have you here!

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