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.