Buying a Walker

Buying a Walker: Top Tips for How to Buy a Rollator Walker

By Maurice

Buying a Walker

Most of us don’t think twice about walking. However, as we get older, there are circumstances that make walking far more painful, challenging, or downright dangerous.

Age may bring wisdom, but it also brings the potential for losing overall body strength/muscle, stamina, balance, stability, experiencing breathing problems, and slower recovery from injuries or surgical procedures. There may also be the onset of arthritis or chronic painful hip, leg or foot problems that cause mobility limitations.

When it becomes clear that mobility has become increasingly difficult, it’s time to figure out how to buy a rollator walker.

Do I Need a Rollator or a Walker?

Once the need for a walker has been determined, typically by a medical professional or physical therapist, the time comes to research your options.

Two of the most popular types of walkers are:

  • Standard Walker
  • Rollator (Rolling Walker)

What’s the Difference?

The difference between a walker and rollator is the level of stability and how it works.

A standard walker is extremely basic. It’s constructed out of an aluminum frame with handles to grip and stationary legs.

In order to operate a walker, the user needs to lift the frame and move it slightly ahead, then take steps to catch up with the walker. Rinse and repeat.

With a standard walker, you can walk at a much slower pace because you are manually controlling the walker.

Standard Walker – Best Candidates

The best candidates for a walker are those who cannot walk for long periods or distances. If mobility is severely limited, a walker is a better choice because it offers more support. More of the user’s weight can be applied to a standard walker.


A standard walker is lightweight and doesn’t require a great deal of upper body strength to pick up, move forward and walk.


A standard walker is better for use by someone who may be limited to the indoors or needs to take it easy.


A walker is a more stable device for patients needing more help with stability and who have to depend more on the walker for support.

  • PROS
  • Streamlined design
  • Folds for easy transport and storage
  • Less expensive
  • Sturdy
  • CONS
  • Requires upper body strength to lift and set down while walking
  • No storage options or seats

Hybrid Rolling Walker

In addition to the standard walker, there is another option which is a cross between a standard walker and a rollator, known as a hybrid rolling walker.


A hybrid rolling walker is a modified version of the standard walker featuring two wheels in the front and two legs in the back. These hybrid versions are both lifted to position in place for walking, then pushed along for faster mobility. Hybrids are good for people who need the extra support of a walker but are agile enough to use a wheeled device.


Hybrid walkers are smaller than rollators, so they work better in tight living spaces.

Hybrid walkers do not have seats available for resting or storage options included in a basic model.

Rollator

A rollator is constructed out of either lightweight aluminum or a heavier steel. It has the same frame construction as a standard walker, however, it has wheels instead of legs. A rollator comes in either a three- or four-wheel design.


Rather than having to lift the device by the handles with each step, it operates by pushing. A rollator also features handbrakes and with a four-wheel design, usually a seat that can be used for resting.


A rollator allows the user to move along at a faster pace with castors that tackle indoor or outdoor conditions. The castors are typically between 6” to 8” for normal everyday use.

Best Candidates – How to Buy a Rollator Walker

The best candidates for a rollator are those who can walk longer distances, but simply need a bit of extra help to keep their balance. A rollator helps keep the user steady so they can walk at their normal or near normal pace.


A rollator uses less of your energy because it’s pushed instead of lifted, so it keeps fatigue at bay for longer periods of time.


A rollator is a good choice for someone who has a good amount of overall body strength, agility, and the ability to maneuver corners and turns with a wheeled device.

  • PROS
  • More stability due to extra wheels
  • Available for both indoor and outdoor use
  • Equipped with seats to combat fatigue and offers a built-in resting place
  • Comes with storage options for stowing bags and medical or personal supplies
  • Collapsible for easy transport and storage
  • CONS
  • Heavier than a standard walker
  • More expensive
  • Requires upper body strength to lift in and out of vehicle for transport
  • Larger sized four-wheel rollator makes it challenging to maneuver in narrow hallways or small spaces
  • Caution should be observed for operating any wheeled device

Which is Safer…a Rollator or a Walker?

To determine which is a safer walker, it boils down to the user’s level of mobility, body strength and stamina.


For users who need a lot more support and have limited mobility, a standard walker would be a safer choice than either a hybrid walker or rollator.


While a rollator offers better mobility because of its wheels and push design, it also presents more of a safety issue. If users rely too much on the rollator for stability and balance, there’s a safety concern of the wheels moving forward and out from under the user, resulting in a potentially serious fall or injury.


When researching how to buy a rollator walker, it’s important that anyone using a rollator is fully up to speed on all the features, how to use the handbrakes and how to secure the device safely before stopping or using the seat for resting.

What Size Rollator do I Need?

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing the right size rollator.

Height

The rollator should be fitted to comfortable height, which after adjusting results in a slight leaning position without straining or hunching your back. Standard models comfortably accommodate users with a height of 5’3” to 5’11”. There are models available for shorter or taller users.


The handlebars should be adjusted to a height that aligns with your hips. While holding the grips on the handlebars, your elbows will be bent, similar to pushing a cart.

Weight

A standard size rollator accommodates a user weight from 250-350 pounds. For heavier users, a bariatric model gives extra support, accommodating weights from 350-500 pounds.

Width

The width of standard rollators is anywhere between 16” to 25” side to side, which should give plenty of room for you to stand comfortably within the frame.


The standard seat width is between 12” to 18”, with larger sizes available for larger users, and is adjustable.

How to Buy a Rollator Walker - Other Size Factors

Most rollators are made from aluminum which keeps the weight of the device down to under 15 pounds, making it fairly easy to fold up for storage or transport.


If you have a small living space or reside in an efficiency size independent care living facility, consider a smaller size rollator to maneuver more easily in tight spaces.

Three-Wheel vs. Four-Wheel Rollator Walkers

  • Three-Wheel Models

These models are for those individuals who require minimal assistance while walking, don’t tire easily after walking longer distances and don’t need a seat to rest.


The three-wheel models are narrower, which makes it easier to maneuver in smaller spaces. They are lighter than the four-wheel models, an average of 11-15 pounds, for easily lifting when storing or transporting. These models have handbrakes and storage options.


These models do not provide as much stability as the four-wheel rollator version.

  • Four-Wheel Models

These rollator models are also for individuals requiring minimal support while walking. They are a bit heavier than the three-wheel models at around 15-18 pounds, and bigger so may be more challenging to operate through narrow doorways, hallways, or other tight spaces.


They are more stable than the three-wheelers and have a comfortable seat for users to stop and rest when tired. Four-wheel models have handbrakes for stopping as needed and offer a wider variety of user height and weight options.

Additional accessories can be added to include wider seats, ergonomically correct grips, cushioned seats with backrests and more storage options.

Tips for Buying a Rollator Walker

Speak with your Doctor

If you are having problems with stability and balance, or struggle with painful arthritis or otherwise notice a decline in your mobile abilities, have an honest conversation with your doctor.


Your doctor can give you the proper physical assessment and make recommendations as to exactly what type of walker would work best for your situation.

Understand Your Physical Limitations

It’s not only important to be honest with your doctor about mobility concerns, but be honest with yourself, too.


If you need extra stability and know you’ll need the walker to support more of your body weight, a rollator is not for you. If you become extremely fatigued and have difficulty moving from room to room, a standard walker would suit you better.


If it hurts or strains your arms to constantly lift and move a walker while walking, a rollator is the better option. If you are pretty mobile but just need a bit of extra security to prevent a fall, a rollator is a good choice.


After considering all of your physical limitations and where you fit in the spectrum, you will be in a better position to choose a safe, comfortable walker.

Review Options

After reading up on the different options available to you, decide if you feel safe and comfortable with a rollator or if a standard or hybrid walker makes the most sense for you.


If the thought of a walker with any type of wheels makes you feel unsafe, start with a standard walker. You might find that a standard walker is steadier but slowing you down and you could benefit more from a rollator. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you make some decisions about which way to go.

Maxing Out Efficiency

Because a walker is a tool, it helps but doesn’t do all the work for you. You are the one who needs to be able to use it efficiently to get the most benefit from it.


If the walker is too heavy or slowing you down, you need to remember that it is still you doing the walking, just with a tool for help. You have to decide how much help you need and then select the best option for your specific situation.


Run through a typical day or week and then picture yourself using a walker while doing all your normal daily activities.

  • Can you manage the walker by yourself?
  • Can you lift it easily?
  • Is it easy to set up after transport?
  • What about folding up for travel to the next appointment?
  • Is it easy to store away at home while not in use?
  • Is it easy to maneuver in the store or other places you tend to frequent?
  • Is it slowing you down or keeping you on track?
  • Do you understand how to use all of the features?
  • How confident do you feel about using something with wheels?

Running through your daily activities and then envisioning doing them while using a walker can also help you decide on a specific model.

Training

These models are for those individuals who require minimal assistance while walking, don’t tire easily after walking longer distances and don’t need a seat to rest.


The three-wheel models are narrower, which makes it easier to maneuver in smaller spaces. They are lighter than the four-wheel models, an average of 11-15 pounds, for easily lifting when storing or transporting. These models have handbrakes and storage options.


These models do not provide as much stability as the four-wheel rollator version.

Pricing

The prices of walkers vary greatly based on the size, model, and manufacturer. According to general Google searches under “Average Cost of Walkers,” standard walkers can start as low as $50 and go up in price from there, while rollators can run anywhere from $125 to hundreds of dollars.


It all depends on what type of walker or rollator you choose and what features you need, such as a back rest or storage.


If your doctor recommends a walker for you, it’s worth checking into whether a portion of the expense can be paid for by your insurance.


Another possibility is that Medicare Part B may pick up some of the costs under the durable medical equipment (DME) section. Your doctor may need to write a recommendation and/or prescription for the walker for submission to Medicare.

How to Buy a Rollator Walker - Conclusion

Loss of mobility is a genuine concern both for the person and friends or family members of those having issues with walking or getting around on their own.

With the use of a rollator, it’s possible to regain mobility without the risks of getting hurt or stranded somewhere without assistance.

Rollator users quickly regain their confidence and independence while giving family members and caregivers greater peace of mind, as well.

Sources by Appearance:

  1. 1
    Stepko, Barbara. “Choosing a Walker or Cane.” AARP, March 6, 2020.
  2. 2
    Wikipedia contributors. "Walker (mobility)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Jan. 2021. Web. 11 Jan. 2021.
  3. 3
    Hernandez M.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Cameron R. “Choosing the Correct Walker.” The University of Arizona, Arizona Center on Aging. May 2015.
  4. 4
    Wikipedia contributors. "Walker (mobility)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Jan. 2021. Web. 11 Jan. 2021.
  5. 5
    Hernandez M.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Cameron R. “Choosing the Correct Walker.” The University of Arizona, Arizona Center on Aging. May 2015.
  6. 6
    A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Johns Creek (GA): Ebix, Inc., A.D.A.M.; c1997-2020. Using A Walker; [updated 2019 May 13; cited 2021 Jan 11]. Available from: Using a walker: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
  7. 7
    The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare, Your Medical Coverage. “Walkers.” [accessed 2021 Jan 11]. Available from: Walkers

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