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What Is a Rollator? Complete Guide to Types, Benefits, Safety & More

By kbeveridge

What Is a Rollator

Many mobility aids can improve the life of seniors and people with disabilities. Rollators are one of the most popular, allowing people to move more easily and gain more independence. But what exactly is a rollator?

A rollator is a walking frame that has wheels at the bottom. It includes three or four wheels, an in-built seat, and handlebars. It allows you to walk more easily on most surfaces and rest if needed on the chair. You may also attach accessories like baskets to a rollator. 

In this guide, we answer the question “What is a rollator?” and cover the main characteristics of a rollator and how it differs from other devices like a walker. We also outline the pros and cons of rollators. Lastly, we help you decide if a rollator is the best option for you or your loved one.

Rollator Vs. Walker: What’s the Difference?

Are Rollator Walkers Covered by Medicare?

The difference between a rollator and a walker is in the wheels and the seat. Both are mobility aids that provide support and allow you to move across different terrains without assistance. However, they have distinct designs and serve different purposes.

Walkers have four legs and a solid frame to help stabilize the user. They usually have flat feet with rubber stops, although some types may include wheels. They allow users to lean their weight against the device and move with it.

Rollators have a similar design to walkers. However, they always include either three or four wheels, depending on the frame design. They also include seats that allow the user to rest after moving. They are strong enough to enable the user to support their weight and also take breaks.

A 2019 study in Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies and Health suggests that rollators are more effective than walkers. Walkers without wheels cause users to tire faster, use more energy, and move shorter distances.

Therefore, rollators are better options than walkers for more severe mobility problems. However, both can be effective in improving the quality of life. Walkers also tend to be cheaper, so they may be a more budget-friendly option.

What Are the Different Kinds of Rollators?

There are many types of rollators on the market. They may include any of the following features:

  • Adjustable: Adjustable rollators allow you to change the height of the seat and handlebars. This feature is essential if you want the most comfortable design for your body.
  • Brakes: Most rollators include brakes on the handles. This feature provides extra safety when using the device going downhill or other sloped surfaces.
  • Folding: Folding rollators collapse in the middle, allowing you to make them flatter and more compact. This feature is handy for any kind of transport, including the car, plane, or bus.
  • Standard: Standard rollators are generally lightweight, at an average of 15 pounds (6.8kg). These units can support maximum weights of approximately 250 pounds (114kg).
  • Three-wheel: Many rollators have a similar frame to walkers, with four sides and four wheels. However, three-wheel models resemble tricycles, and they are more lightweight options. They fit more easily in small spaces and can be more comfortable to turn.
  • Indoor/outdoorSome rollators have durable designs that can withstand outside surfaces. They usually include larger tires that can maneuver rougher surfaces without making your house dirty.

When choosing the best rollator for you, you should consider your needs and living space. Opt for a model that can move through your house and will allow you to maneuver outside.

What Is a Bariatric Rollator?

Bariatric rollators can support higher weights than standard models. For example, a bariatric frame may hold anywhere from 350 to 700 pounds (159 to 318kg). To be sure, you should double-check the maximum load capacity of each bariatric rollator.

These devices may also have a lower seat. This design feature allows the user to sit and rise more quickly without putting as much pressure on their legs.

Bear in mind that bariatric rollators are heavier than standard models, so they can be harder to steer and transport.

Who Needs a Rollator?

Rollators are an excellent option for people who need more balance and mobility. There are several reasons why someone might need a rollator, including old age, balance disorders like Parkinson’s, or an injury.

Mobility Problems

Movement problems are common with old age. Seniors may struggle with any number of conditions, with the most common being arthritis and osteoporosis. These chronic conditions can make it harder to move.

Arthritis is widespread in older people. It is a kind of joint disease that causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness. People with arthritis find it harder to move. They may be unable to climb or walk without the assistance of a tool like a rollator.

Osteoporosis is also prevalent among the aging population. It is a type of bone loss that makes the bones weaker, thinner, and more breakable. Osteoporosis causes back and body pain and a worsened posture that makes it harder to move.

However, younger people can also struggle with mobility problems. In younger populations, movement problems are common among people living with obesity and less income.

The common causes are:

  • Arthritis
  • Back problems like sciatica
  • Previous accidents
  • Chronic lung conditions
  • Diabetes

In any of these cases, people may struggle to move without the balance and support of a mobility aid. They are good candidates for rollators.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is common in people over the age of 60. This disease can be debilitating and generally gets worse as time passes.

Common symptoms of Parkinson’s include:

  • Shaking body parts
  • Body stiffness
  • Slow movement
  • Balance problems
  • Depression and other mood disorders

Because people with Parkinson’s struggle to maintain their balance, they can fall over easily. This can cause further injuries and distress. Therefore, a rollator can help them to maintain their balance and avoid pain.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, so patients rely on treatments to reduce their symptoms. A rollator can be part of a long-term approach to this disorder.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a general term for a variety of different lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is a common consequence of cigarette smoking, chemical fume exposure, and air pollution.

Symptoms of COPD include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Mucus in the lungs
  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation
  • Poor immune system

COPD makes it harder to breathe, especially after exercise. People with this condition need to move slowly and rest a lot to avoid making their symptoms worse. Rollators can be helpful because of the in-built seat, which allows the user to rest as needed.

Heart Failure

Heart failure happens when the heart doesn’t work as it should. It can no longer pump blood efficiently throughout your body. It is a common condition among people who have high blood pressure or coronary artery disease.

Some of the symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the lower body
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Inability to exercise for long periods
  • Rapid heartbeat

People with heart failure may only be able to move and exercise for short periods at a time. Therefore, a rollator allows them to stop and sit down while they catch their breath and slow their heart rate.

Who Should Not Use a Rollator?

When evaluating if someone should use a rollator, you should consider these factors:

  • How strong and heavy is the person?
  • Can they control the brakes and wheels by themselves?
  • Do they need to transport the mobility aid a lot?

People who need to lean their weight heavily into a frame are not suitable candidates for a rollator. Because of its wheels, it can roll and slip out from under the heavy weight on top. These people are better suited to a traditional walker or a wheelchair.

Rollators are more comfortable to maneuver around corners and in smaller spaces. However, you need decent abdominal strength to move the rollator while walking. Therefore, people with weak abdominal muscles may struggle to use this tool.

Those that do not have the strength to stop the weight of the rollator also should not use it. Most units include brakes that slow the device but do not stop it completely. If a person cannot halt themselves, they could fall or have another accident.

Lastly, rollators are not a good option if you need to transport it a lot. They do not lie as flat, nor are they as lightweight as traditional walkers. Therefore, they can be more challenging to transport in any vehicle.

Are Rollators Safe?

If used correctly, rollators are safe. However, there are some dangers if you misuse them or are not suitable for this mobility device.

Rollator Dangers

There are a few immediate dangers to using rollators:

  • The wheels may slip on a wet surface.
  • You may overbalance and fall.
  • You may lose control of the rollator and hit a wall or another person.

However, you can avoid these dangers by ensuring that a rollator is a suitable device for your physical needs. If you lack the strength to use the brake and stop the rollator, it isn’t a good option. It is also not suitable if you need to lean a lot of weight on the device.

There are also some long-term dangers to using a rollator:

  • You can weaken the muscles in your legs.
  • You can cause carpal tunnel or other upper-body injuries.

However, you can mostly reduce these dangers by choosing a rollator that fits your body. The arm grips should be at the correct height for your dimensions, and the device should support your weight. Your doctor or physiotherapist can help you size a rollator to your body.

How to Safely Use a Rollator

The process is pretty straightforward. However, there are some tips on how to use a rollator. We will briefly cover each step of the process for using a rollator safely.

How to stand up from a rollator

  • Turn on the brakes.
  • Move to the edge of the seat.
  • Use two hands on the handles.
  • Lean forwards and put some weight into your feet.
  • Stand up using your legs and arms.
  • Disengage the brakes and start walking.

How to sit down on a rollator

  • Turn around so that you are facing away from the rollator, with the seat behind you.
  • Push the rollator back a little bit so you can bend your knees.
  • Make sure that you have the brakes turned on.
  • Place your arms behind you and on top of the chair arms.
  • Bend your knees until you are in a seated position.

How to walk with a rollator

  • Move slowly in unknown areas or on bumpy surfaces.
  • Walk with the rollator in front of you.
  • Push it along rather than making it carry you.
  • Try to keep your legs stepping a similar distance.
  • Keep an eye out for any potential hazards.
  • Keep your gaze looking ahead while you walk, not at your feet.
  • Rest when you feel tired.

How to maintain a rollator:

  • Regularly check the wheels for any punctures or damage.
  • Check that the brakes are functioning.
  • Make sure not to overbalance the rollator with bags or other items.
  • Do not use a broken rollator.

If you want to learn more about how to safely use a rollator, you can watch this video.

Are Rollators Covered by Medicare?

Medicare covers walkers (as does Medicaid in some circumstances) including rollators. They classify them as durable medical equipment (DME). This means you can gain coverage if you have a medical need and prescription from a doctor. However, some other criteria determine the kind of coverage.

Your doctor and the rollator supplier must be part of the Medicare program. Otherwise, Medicare will not pay out the claims. This ensures that they meet the standards of safety that the US government requires.

medicare logo

You will have to pay 20% of the amount approved by Medicare. This amount may cover the rental or purchase of a rollator, depending on your specific medical needs. However, this is only valid if your doctor accepts assignment, where Medicare will pay them the remainder.

There may be other costs associated with using a rollator. These expenses could include insurance and additional medical charges. You should thoroughly discuss your options with your medical professional.

Rollator Pros and Cons

Rollator CONS

There are various advantages to using a rollator:

  • Improved mobility on flat surfaces: Rollators work particularly well on flat terrain. They allow you to move in a straight line, turn, stop, and start as needed. For people with mobility problems, they allow greater independence and movement without the need for a carer or other aid.
  • Greater stability: Using a rollator can improve overall balance and decrease plantar pressure. Overall, it can reduce feelings of pain and allow users to support their bodies while they move. This is particularly useful for people who have experienced falls before and may be afraid of walking alone.
  • Higher aerobic fitness: It is challenging to get beneficial exercise when you are in your senior years. However, walking with a rollator can improve aerobic fitness in people over the age of 75. In turn, this can reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or osteoporosis. It can also boost the immune system and reduce the effects of viral infections and colds.
  • Reduces symptoms of COPD: COPD is a group of chronic illnesses that affect the lungs. People with this illness may struggle to catch their breath or travel long distances. However, using a rollator can help them move further and for more extended periods. However, the user must use it frequently to get the most benefit.
  • Helpful for people with Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s disease can reduce someone’s ability to balance. It can also cause them to fall over frequently. However, rollators can help sufferers to move more quickly and safely. This can significantly improve their quality of life.
  • Improved posture: People who use walkers and rollators can improve their posture, reduce strain on their lower back muscles, and walk more fluidly. In turn, this can reduce back and shoulder pain because of the reduced pressure on the spine and muscles.
  • Rolls across surfaces: Unlike a walker, a rollator uses wheels to move across surfaces. Therefore, you don’t need to pick it up and move it as you walk. Thus, it is an excellent option for people who may lack some strength in the arms and back.
  • Allows you to sit down: The in-built seat is one of the most significant advantages of the rollator. It will enable users to rest as often as they need, reducing the likelihood of overtiring or suffering an accident. Rollators let users move at their own pace and slowly build up strength and mobility.

Rollator CONS

There are also disadvantages to using a rollator:

  • Doesn’t work well on sloping surfaces: Although rollators help when walking on flat surfaces, they can be cumbersome or even dangerous on slopes. When walking uphill or downhill, a rollator can make the movement more difficult. It could be particularly dangerous when going down because the wheels could pick up speed and run away from the user.
  • Hard to use with stairs: Rollators are bulky and heavy, so they are not easy to pick up. If the user needs to use stairs, they may find this extremely difficult. The device is more compatible with ramps or elevators, but these may not be available in every place.
  • May harm the legs in the long-term: There is some evidence that rollator use can reduce muscle activity in the lower body. Over time, this could lead to muscle degeneration and further weakness. However, there is not yet enough research to confirm this as a certainty.
  • May harm the arms and upper body: The repetitive movements of using a rollator can cause injuries to the hands, arms, and upper body. These injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinopathy, or osteoarthritis. However, you can reduce these risks by using a device that is the correct height, using it properly, and maintaining it regularly.
  • Potential for accidents: Unlike walkers with legs, rollators have wheels. Therefore, they could roll away and cause the user to slip, particularly if they overbalance. Thus, they are not suitable for people who need to rest their weight on the walker. They are also unsuitable for people who do not have the strength to use the brakes.
  • Heavy and bulky design: Rollators are heavy-duty and large, mainly if they are bariatric models. Users need to exert extra effort to push the rollator, and it can be more challenging to lift and transport.
  • Can be expensive: In general, rollators are more costly than standard walkers. You may be eligible for Medicare coverage, but it is usually partially paid. Furthermore, your medical provider will need to be a part of the program and prescribe you the rollator as part of your treatment.
  • Stigma: Some people may feel shame at having to use a mobility aid in public. This is as true for a rollator as it is for a walking cane or wheelchair. New users should consult with their doctors on strategies to how they can better adjust to their situation.


In conclusion, rollators are mobility aids that roll across the ground. They may have either three or four wheels, with an in-built seat as well. They can usually support up to 250 pounds (114kg), although bariatric rollators may withstand 700 pounds (318kg).

Rollators are suitable for a range of users. These users include people with mobility issues, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, or those with injuries. However, they are not a good option for people who need to lean their weight on the chair. Otherwise, it can roll out and cause a fall.

They can help people to regain mobility and independence, as well as lessen the symptoms of various chronic illnesses. However, rollators must be adjusted and used correctly to avoid accidents or long-term problems.

Overall, rollators are not the cheapest mobility aids on the market. However, they can provide the comfort and movement needed to get around. If you suspect that you need a rollator, we recommend asking your medical professional for further information.

1 thought on “What Is a Rollator? Complete Guide to Types, Benefits, Safety & More”

  1. Maurice B Lampl II

    I have a rollator that has a design fault. The brake lines have tendency to snag on to the knobs on sides of the rollator causing the brakes to stretch while opening the rollator into open position thus causing the cable line to slip thru the nut retainer at end of brake cable at the wheel, causing the brake lever to separate from the wheel and render the brake useless. I have managed to restore brake usefulness by using vise pliers to pull on the cable and re-tighten the hex nuts (very difficult to do, another design fault). Additionally, I’ve applied zip ties to attach the cables to the wheel supports and eliminated the “snagging” issues.

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