Walker vs Rollator – Which is Better for Seniors?

By
reviewed
Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: April 26, 2021
Seniors Journal is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links.

A lot of people who have issues around mobility are looking for a form of support. If you or a loved one needs this extra level of help when it comes to getting around, you should understand the debate on walker vs rollator, and which is the most appropriate solution. Though at a glance they both appear to do a very similar job, there are some vital differences to be aware of when you are looking to buy one of these products.

If you know someone who needs a rollator or a walker to support their walking and movement then you won’t want to take any chances of getting the wrong product. If someone doesn’t get the right level of support, they are at a much higher risk of a fall or injury. A little bit of research can keep you and your loved ones safe and mobile.

What are walkers

Walker vs Rollator - Which is Better for Seniors?

A walker is a frame, usually with a four-legged design. The frame is held by the person who needs support and it then comes into contact with the ground to provide them with a level of stability. By holding the frame with your arms, you reduce the chance that you will fall while trying to get around.

Who should use them

Walkers are regularly used by elderly people who are looking for a narrow frame that can help them to get around their house simply. It can allow people to gain a level of independence they might not otherwise have.

If an elderly person spends a lot of their time in a wheelchair, but still has enough leg movement and upper body strength to use the walker, they may consider a walker. Walkers require upper body strength due to the fact that they need to be lifted to move forward.

Types of walkers

A standard walker will have a four-legged frame and a space for both the left and right side. There is also a hemi walker that is a sort of cross between a walking cane and a walker. It allows you to hold it in just one place, so if you have a weakness in one hand then you can still use this to good effect. A good walker, like the Carex Sturdy Uplift Adjustable Walker, will also be adjustable to suit your height.

Pros and cons

Naturally, when you are considering rollator vs walker safety and effectiveness, it’s vital that you think about the pros and cons of each type. For a frame-style walker, the following pros and cons should be considered.

Pros:

  • Extra level of stability, great for people who regularly fall or need a lot of support.
  • Affordable.
  • Often lightweight products and some of them even fold up for transport.

What are rollators

Walker vs Rollator - Which is Better for Seniors?

The rollator is an advanced product that has taken over from the walker for a lot of people. It was invented by Aina Wifalk in the 1970s. Wifalk was herself a scientist and a polio sufferer.

Rollators are similar products in that they are designed, like walkers, to give support. They are also made to have some key differences, too. A rollator has wheels, and this means that they allow you to get around much quicker. If you value speed and aren’t using your mobility scooter then a rollator might be the next best thing! This comes with its pros and cons, as we will explore below.

Who should use them

People who use rollators need to be confident that they have enough strength to support them, and that the rollator is not going to get away from them. Because of the wheels, there is an extra risk of the rollators slipping forward and causing a fall. However, most rollators have handbrakes which helps to mitigate this risk.

People who still want to retain a level of speed can use rollators. Also, people who don’t have a lot of remaining upper body strength may wish to use the products due to the fact they don’t have to be lifted like a walker in order to move around.

Rollator types

You can buy both three and four wheeled models of rollator, and some that have a triangular, almost trike-shape, and others that just appear the same as a frame, with a four-cornered design, but have wheels attached.

A two-wheel model is an option, which gives a very good balance between stability and mobility. The other two legs will usually make it easy to stop the rollator if needed and to stand still. These aren’t really full rollators, so they’re often referred to as hybrid products.

You can also buy something called a heavy-duty rollator. This is basically a model that has been made with a higher capacity than many of the others, meaning that larger people who have mobility issues can make use of a rollator. Some of these products can support up to 700lbs in weight.

Walker vs Rollator - Which is Better for Seniors?

Pros and cons

Of course, there are pros and cons of rollators, too. One of the standout things to mention is that rollators often come with inbuilt seats. The NOVA Medical Products GetGo Classic Rollator Walker is a great example of a fantastic rollator with a seat attached to allow you to take five or to stay seated while you are in line waiting for something.

Pros:

  • You can move a lot more quickly with a rollator.
  • Less strength is required in order to move and propel the frame in front of you, you don’t have to lift the whole thing.
  • They often have storage space so that you can carry things from place to place.
  • Cornering is easier, as these models have more flexibility when going around bends.

Cons:

  • If you aren’t able to use a rollator properly, there is a risk of falling due to the wheels slipping away.
  • They are usually more expensive than a standard walker.

Which is better?

There is no simple answer to which is better between a walker and a rollator. It is a case of understanding the needs of the user and matching up the best rollator or walker for this.

If you are buying for someone who has mobility issues, and who doesn’t have a lot of upper body strength to lift a walker and move it forward, you might want a rollator. Also, if you are looking for a product that can retain some speed and allow you to take corners with ease, then a rollator could be a good solution for you. The wheels mean you can move surprisingly quickly with the extra support given by being able to lean your body weight on the rollator.

So, when is a walker better? If someone still has the upper body strength to move a walker, and also needs the extra level of stability that is offered by the sturdy design, then it is a good idea to buy a walker rather than a rollator and keep the strength of the frame out in front.

Final thoughts

As you can see, this isn’t necessarily a decision to take lightly. Rollators and walkers both give a new level of independence to people who would otherwise suffer. Whether you need something to support the elderly or for rehabilitation from an injury or illness, a walker or a rollator might be the appropriate choice. Deciding on walker vs rollator depends on the person in question. Do you need something that can corner or move quickly, or is the focus purely on retaining a good level of stability?

There is more choice on the market than ever before, and plenty of options for both rollators and walkers, so it all comes down to making a suitable choice for the unique scenario you find yourself in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *