Mobility aids: support for seniors
Rollators, also known as ‘walkers’ – which are in fact a walking frame, not a rollator –have revolutionized seniors’ independence, allowing stability, storage and a place to sit while walking. Costs range from $300-$500; the ADP Program (details below) may cover much of the cost of one rollator, but additional ones are often needed for upstairs or outdoors. Rollators must ‘fit’ the user’s handle height so that wrists are properly positioned, and seat height, based on the user’s leg length and height when sitting. Low handles make the user crouch and look down, not ahead; too low a seat puts knees and back out of alignment. Rollator heights are easily adjusted but users are advised to contact the manufacturer’s website for information about the model, product details or recalls, and service support, including professional fitting and training on the use of brakes. Even if a small fee is involved, a properly fitted rollator is essential to safe activity. Remember that sitting on a rollator seat for ambulation – using it like a wheelchair – is not recommended for safe use.
Transporter chairs: Light, folding wheelchairs are called ‘transporter’ chairs, intended for temporary use during a short-term disability or for easier travel. They can be $300 new, are rarely covered by insurance plans and are the most popular type of recycled assistive device. Be sure any used chair folds flat and opens securely, that wheels are solid and straight, and the body’s upholstery is sturdy.
Motorized wheelchairs and scooters
Motorized wheelchairs and scooters are extremely popular, and have replaced cars in some Southern USA senior communities. Most wheelchairs are custom-fitted, often using ‘Obus’-style back supports and ‘roho’ pressure-relieving cushion seating, costing $1,500+. Be very sure to check manufacturer information and consider professional assistance (see below) to ensure fit and knowledge of all features and uses. Scooters may require less custom fitting but can cost $5,000+. Most scooters require charging of their electric batteries, and should be regularly serviced; for best results, choose a reconditioned model from a reliable supplier.
Health insurance policies and subsidies
When researching equipment options, ask the supplier if the item is covered by the Assistive Devices (ADP) Program (1-800-268-6021 /Ontario Ministry of Health & Long Term Care website, www.health.gov.on. Other subsidies might be available through the March of Dimes (www.marchofdimes.ca) or Veterans’ Affairs (www.vac-acc.gc.ca). Check any private health insurance policies regarding coverage or subsidies. For short-term loans of assistive devices, contact The Canadian Red Cross (www.redcross.ca).