Tennis balls should be for tennis not walkers
We seniors are still stuck with 19th century technology
I’m a big fan of the two Justins who became stars by refusing to go quietly when expelled by the Republican Tennessee legislature. I’m also a fan of Gloria Johnson—the third rebellious legislator-- who, at 60, did not march with her colleagues to celebrate their victory--she rode a scooter that she uses for mobility. I want one of those scooters but they’re too expensive and heavy to get into my car. I’m sure Gloria had help to get the scooter to the march. Unfortunately I don’t have anyone around for heavy lifting (though I wish I did).
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Since I can walk, just not very far, all I got from Medicare was a four-legged folding metal walker.
You know the ones. They’re issued by hospitals and rehab facilities. I believe they were used in my mother’s day, and possibly since the 1800s, and haven’t been redesigned since. You still have to put tennis balls on the back legs so they won’t destroy the flooring. Amazon even sells tennis balls that fit them. Has no one heard of back wheels? Despite being clumsy, hard to push, and destructive to flooring, they are still the only walkers Medicare pays for and hospitals stock.
I bought a fancy walker—called a rollator—for when I go out, but it stays in my car, and I keep the smaller metal one in my house. I had to retrofit it with a tray on the top so I can carry food from the kitchen to the couch or my office. I bought the tray on Amazon and discovered, to my dismay, that it doesn’t fit properly and teeters back and forth. I literally had to prop it up and tape it to the walker handles.
One reviewer warned of this defect by telling the sad tale of her father holding onto the tray to stop a fall; he wound up breaking a hip. I also had to buy little feet for the back legs because I refuse to use tennis balls, but wheels would be so much better.
The rollator I take with me I bought with my own money and it wasn’t cheap. I had to pretend to the medical equipment store that I was a customer to try out some of their rollators so I could then buy the one I liked on Amazon for half the price. It still cost $165 bucks. It weighs 20 pounds, which makes it a beast to get in and out of the car but at least I can fit in its seat.
My daughter has an electric bicycle as do all of her friends. Unfortunately I can’t ride a regular bike anymore—I need an electric trike for the disabled. One that is lightweight and foldable so I can put it in my car. And affordable. But no such thing exists. There aren’t any disability scooters either that are lightweight enough to lift into my Kia Soul by myself which means no museums and nature walks with friends for me. Not to speak of the cost for the lighter ones, which can run in the thousands. No, Medicare won’t pay.
In the age of electric bikes, scooters and other gadgets for able bodied people to get around, why does no one design decent, affordable, portable equipment for people who really need it—the elderly and disabled—who are often one and the same?
They can start with back wheels on walkers. And trays that fit. Is that too much to ask?
Oh, Erica, I totally get what you've said. I wish it all were different. One thing I can suggest is seeing if you can find a medical equipment charity that gives away or sells very cheap the equipment you need. Ie., the lightweight folding scooter. Like the one I have, which cost me $2700 and that was a few years ago. But when taken apart, the heaviest part is still about 20-25lbs. It's hard for me to lift it into my car but I can do it if I have to. My hope for you is that you get what you need by hook or by crook. Hugs, Francine
I have retrofitted both the front and the back of my regular walker with wheels. I use it to carry a tray (yes, and it fits OK). I used it outdoors before I got my rollator. The wheels I put on the “back” have brakes that grab the floor if you push down. None of this is expensive, but I agree that the regular walkers should come with them. I’ll send you a photo if you want. Don’t see a way to send a photo on this app.
My rollator, a Zoom Nova, is my favorite horse if I’m not sure the place I’m going has seats I can get up from. Yes, $229 is more than it should be, and yes, Medicare should pay for them, or things like them. And yes, it’s ugly, but the “stylish” ones either don’t have a seat, or the seat is impossibly low for me. It’s the only one I found that’s high enough to get up from. I’m better now, can do seats with arms, but still have trouble with regular toilets and some chairs. Many rollators don’t even list seat height in the specs!
The Zoom comes in several seat heights and is not too heavy to manage, especially tipping and sliding it into the back seat to lie flat. This particular rollator also comes with a gadget I have not seen elsewhere to keep the wheels from falling open when lifting it. Yeah, patented, easy to lose, and $30 including shipping to replace. This time, I drilled a hole in the plastic and added a cord to tie it onto the frame.