Off-road walking aid
92-year-old invents all-terrain rollator with electric drive
Even at over 90 years old, Gerhart Wissel still wants to get out into nature, but couldn’t find a suitable walker. So the inventor quickly developed his own all-terrain rollator with an electric drive – “a combination between a mountain bike and a rollator”.
At the mercy of old age, just sit at home and do crossword puzzles? “No thanks,” says Gerhart Wissel. The 92-year-old would rather go to the forest and the mountains. A few years ago he could do this on a mountain bike. But after a bicycle accident he has to rely on a walker. Because most walkers are made for the street, the pensioner from Überlingen on Lake Constance made his own design.
For three years he tinkered, calculated and finally invented a kind of hiking aid with an electric drive. “It had to be a combination between a mountain bike and a walker,” says the engineer. Today he travels beyond the streets with his “e-hiker” – a sturdy walker with all sorts of special details.
The large wheels with off-road tread are particularly noticeable. They would help overcome obstacles and climb stairs, says Wissel. The electric drive pulls him up the mountains; a powerful brake is necessary for the descent. “You want to get back down from the mountain in one piece,” jokes the 92-year-old.
“I still want to enjoy life”
He tested his turbo rollator himself for around 400 hours. “It depends on the details, which are often not given enough attention when it comes to a rollator,” says Wissel. In order to better relieve the strain on the arms, he developed adjustable handles. The accessories also include a snow chain. The rollator is foldable and fits in the trunk. A large carrying bag for shopping is integrated. “And an upholstered armchair and a backrest with a rain cover.”
Those around him initially reacted skeptically to the invention, says Wissel. “As it always is with inventions – at first you are smiled at in a friendly manner, but are often seen as a crazy person.” Now people are convinced. His idea was implemented by a small bicycle company in the Deggenhausertal.
There is a lot of passion and technical know-how behind Wissel’s invention. “I’m a full-blooded technician; I started designing things as a small apprentice,” says the pensioner. 65 years ago he invented the first four-wheel shovel loader for the well-known construction and agricultural machinery manufacturer Kramer. Wissel keeps a miniature version of it in his study.
But it wasn’t just his love of work that drove him to the invention. “It was a necessity,” says the 92-year-old. “I still want to enjoy life, be there and spend my time outside in the forest or in the mountains.” In old age you shouldn’t withdraw.
Greater radius of action and lower risk of falls due to walkers
A healthy attitude, says the German Society for Geriatrics (DGG). Keeping older people mobile is also an important goal of geriatric medicine, explains DGG President Rainer Wirth. “A rollator is a real blessing for many older people with mobility problems.”
A rollator reduces the risk of falls and improves the radius of action. “It is important to walk as upright as possible between the wheels instead of pushing the rollator in front of you with a hunched back,” emphasizes Wirth. An incorrect rollator posture can lead to muscle problems.
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According to AOK, rollators are part of the health insurance benefits. “For the “normal” rollators alone, 108 different products are listed in the aids directory,” said an AOK spokesman. There is no one product price for a rollator supply.
Depending on the medical supply store and manufacturer, the prices for walking aids are in the three- and four-digit range. The market also offers so-called outdoor rollators. But Wissel couldn’t find the right one for him in stores. Everything about normal walkers annoyed him. “They have wheels that are too small, often poor seating, no drive and bad brakes.”
The sales price for Wissel’s turbo rollator is around 5,000 euros due to the complex production and high-quality parts, as the inventor explains. Initially he will bring ten models onto the market. He already has three orders. The demand is there, says the 92-year-old. “So there are still a lot of crazy people like me.”