Walker Vs Rollator: Which Is Best For Seniors? on AskSAMIE.com

Walker Vs Rollator: Which Is Best For Seniors?

Walker Vs Rollator: Which Is Best For Seniors?

Helping you decide on the right device is the entire reason we created AskSAMIE. But this topic is a big one that I wanted to address directly. How do you decide whether to use a walker or a rollator?

 First off, you should follow the recommendations of your physical or occupational therapist. While you can buy a walker out of pocket and not worry about getting a physician's order, there's a reason it's a prescribed device. Choosing the correct mobility device should be informed by a clinician because there can be long-term effects or unexpected consequences if using a device that doesn't meet a person's current needs.

 But I've also seen many situations in which a clinician isn't involved and it's challenging to get one involved quickly. So what do you do then? This guide is for that situation. We want you to make clinically informed decisions so you get the right device at the right time.

 This guide will offer you:

  • An understanding of the differences between a walker and a rollator
  • Types of rollator
  • Types of walkers
  • General recommendations on who should use each
  • How to get a qualified recommendation from a clinician

 

What Is A Rollator?

A rollator, is also known as a "rolling walker" or "four wheeled walker." It's designed to aid those who require assistance with walking but also need a periodic rest. This is made possible by the built-in seat that's available. Equipped with four wheels, a seat, and brakes, rollators are designed for individuals who can walk and only need occasional support.

 The built-in seat provides a convenient spot to rest, making it ideal for longer distances or when a quick pause is necessary. The brakes provide safety as those four wheels can get rolling pretty quick and if you're not in control, it could easily cause a fall.

 Three-wheeled rollators also exist, but in my clinical experience they're pretty easy to tip over, provide limited support, and the seat is narrower. So for those reasons I don't recommend them and we also don't offer them for sale at AskSAMIE.

Who Should Not Use a Rollator Walker?

Rollators are not suitable for everyone. They are generally not recommended for those who require physical support to stand or walk. Since there are four wheels, it rolls easily. So anyone who needs to lean most of their weight on a walker to take a step would be at risk for a fall using a rollator. Those recovering from major surgery or with conditions that have significantly decreased their balance might find a standard or front-wheeled walker more stabilizing. 

What is a Front-Wheeled Walker?

A front-wheeled walker also has a few names, including "two wheeled walker" and being the default style referenced when simply using the term "walker." It features two wheels at the front and two legs at the back, which provides a stable yet mobile solution for those with mild to moderate mobility challenges.

 Users can easily push the walker forward, relying on its steady frame for support while walking. This device enhances independence by allowing safer, more confident movement across various surfaces, which is crucial for maintaining an

2 Wheeled Walker with Seat | Clever-Lite Adult Walker on AskSAMIE.com

active lifestyle. They are great because they are usually very lightweight and foldable, which makes it easy to put in a car and have with you readily.

 Typically, front-wheeled walkers don't have seats, but there is an innovative one called the Clever-Lite that provides the convenience of a seat with the safety of just having the 2 wheels. So it's a nice combo for the right situation. 

Who Should Not Use a Front-Wheeled Walker?

A front-wheeled walker may not be suitable for older adults who still require support while using it. For example, if you're not able to maintain your balance while standing and holding the walker, it's probably not a safe situation. In that case, primarily using a wheelchair is likely better. In some cases, using a standard walker that has no wheels can be the middle ground between a front-wheeled walker and a wheelchair. This tends to work well for people who need full support of the walker to push down on to hop or to take one step at a time. And if a front-wheeled walker doesn't seem safe, this is definitely a time in which an evaluation should be completed by a physical therapist so you can get clarity on what the best device is to use and how to use it safely. 

Choosing the best device

Now that we've gone through who should use what, it's time to consider which are the best options within each category. So the rest of the article will give you examples of some of the best rollators and the best four-wheeled walkers, so you can know the difference between the types within the category.

Best Rollators for Seniors

When selecting a rollator, consider models that offer adjustable handles, a sturdy frame, and an easy-to-fold design for transport. Look for features like lightweight frames, adjustable heights, and ergonomic grips to enhance comfort and usability. Here are some of the best rollators in the market today:

  1. Bariatric Rollator - The bariatric rollator is equipped with 8" wheels suited for
    Bariatric Rollator with 8" Wheels on AskSAMIE.com
    outdoor use and features hand brakes for wheel locking, providing a stable and comfortable seated rest. It's designed wider than standard rollators to offer heavy-duty support and stability for users, enhancing their sense of security while walking. This rollator, while bigger, is still lightweight and portable, easily fitting into a vehicle trunk for transportation. Ideal for use in various settings like grocery stores, sidewalks, and family outings, it promotes independence in walking and helps reduce the risk of falls.
  2. Rollator with 6" Wheels - This affordable rollator has 6" wheels which work
    Rollator with 6" Wheels on AskSAMIE.com
    for outdoor and out of home use. The rollator has hand brakes to lock the wheels in place and a comfortable seat, which is great for taking seated rest breaks while out and about. This rollator provides support for balance while walking, which allows the user to feel stable and secure doing tasks like cooking and getting to the bathroom.
  3. Rollator with 8" Wheels - This rollator also has hand brakes to lock the
    Rollator with 8" Wheels on AskSAMIE.com
    wheels in place and a comfortable seat which is great for taking seated rest breaks while out and about. The larger 8" wheels make it even easier to navigate outdoor or uneven terrain. Using a rollator is perfect for walking around the grocery store, walking on a sidewalk for exercise, or going on a family outing.
  4. Upright Walker - This walker has gained more 
    Upright Walker for Seniors on AskSAMIE.com
    notoriety in recent years, and for good reason. The platforms for each arm allow the weight of the upper body to be supported by the forearms instead of by the hands and wrists. That naturally creates the opportunity to look up more and provides more trunk support than your traditional rollator. It has the built-in seat and hand brakes for safety, along with the larger wheels for outdoor terrain. 

Best Walkers for Seniors

For those considering a walker, look for models that provide durability and stability without the complexity of wheels, making it ideal for predominantly indoor use. For a bit more flexibility, front-wheeled models offer easier movement while still requiring lifting at the back, suitable for those with moderate mobility needs. Consider the following models for your personal needs:

  1. Standard Walker - A standard walker offers stability and support for
    Standard Walker on  AskSAMIE.com
    individuals with limited mobility, making sure they don't move faster than their balance allows due to its wheel-less design. It can be folded for easy storage and transport, making it usable both inside and outside the home. This walker helps improve balance while walking and reduces the risk of falls.
  2. Front-Wheeled Walker - The front-wheeled walker is
    Front Wheeled Walker on AskSAMIE.com
    ideal for individuals with limited mobility, offering stability and support. It features two wheels at the front and two glide caps at the back, facilitating smooth movement across various surfaces. The walker is foldable for convenient storage and transport, enhancing balance during walking and reducing the risk of falls.
  3. Platform Walker - A platform walker is an effective mobility aid for individuals
    Platform Walker on AskSAMIE.com
    who can't grip a standard walker handle due to weak hand strength. It features two padded forearm rests with adjustable straps to securely support the arms. The height of the platform can be adjusted for comfort, and the walker can be folded for easy storage and transport, making it convenient for use both inside and outside the home. 

Rollator vs. Walker

Ok, now that we've dug into what they are, who they are not for, and some examples of great ones, you have quite a bit of information to make a more informed decision. As always, consider the primary needs of the user, but a good general guide for reference is:

  • If help is needed to get up from a chair or one needs to put most of their weight on the device to take a step, they're probably best suited for using a front-wheeled or other walker.
  • If a little steadying support is needed or one tires easily, then a rollator is well suited for the situation. 

Need Help Deciding What To Get?

Choosing the right mobility aid involves considering the specific needs, lifestyle, and physical ability of the senior. It's not just about the most popular model; it's about what'll best support the individual's daily life and mobility goals. For personalized advice and assistance in selecting the perfect product, schedule a virtual assessment at AskSAMIE or consult with a local healthcare professional who can provide tailored recommendations based on an individual assessment.

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Brandy Archie, OTD, OTR/L, CLIPP

Dr. Archie received her doctorate in occupational therapy from Creighton University. She is a certified Living in Place Professional with past certifications in low vision therapy, brain injury and driving rehabilitation.  Dr. Archie has over 15 years of experience in home health and elder focused practice settings which led her to start AskSAMIE, a curated marketplace to make aging in place possible for anyone, anywhere! Answer some questions about the problems the person is having and then a personalized cart of adaptive equipment and resources is provided.

She's a wife, mother of 3 and a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan! Connect with her on Linked In or by email anytime.

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