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Buying Guide - Walkers & Rollators

Walkers and Rollators are similar in that they involve both hands to operate which makes them very stable. They provide a great deal of stability and with most Rollators, a seat is provided allowing you to take a rest while on the go. Which one you purchase depends on what your needs require and your doctor’s recommendation. We explain what some of the differences are, and what some of the considerations for purchase may be.

Walkers:

Think of a three dimensional view of a 4 sided frame, but with only three sides. Most walkers are made from aluminum with some of the heavy duty models made from steel. Most walkers are height adjustable, have hand grips, and have rubber tips or skids at the end of the legs. They work by picking up the weight a little and scooting it forward, allowing you to take an extra step, then putting your weight back down on it for stability. Some walkers come with wheels on the front legs making it easier to scoot the walker forward. The surface has to be relatively smooth to operate a walker safely. Overall, a walker provides a great deal of stability and can help you regain a little more freedom.

Rollator:

A rollator is similar to a walker but with wheels, brakes, and on most models a seat. Some even have a basket for storing items while on the go. The seat is convenient allowing you to rest and most models fold up for easy portability. Rollators are available with 3 wheels (think tricycle), 4 wheels, and some with 6 wheels (the two rear wheels are paired with another). Many of the models with hand brakes have a parking brake feature making the rollator more stable while seated.

Main Considerations for Most Users:
  • Doctor’s advice – If you are under a doctor’s care, it is important to get their input. They may have certain requirements, or recommend something else.
  • Operating environment – do you have the space to operate a walker or rollator safely in your home? Think ahead about all the places you will maneuver and make sure you have enough clearance. Steps are another concern – if you have steps to traverse for example, make sure you have a plan for getting up or down. Also keep in mind the terrain you will most commonly face. Larger diameter wheels on rollators work better in rough terrain such as grass or dirt roads. Walkers are very hard to operate on all but the smoothest surfaces.
  • Do you travel? Most walkers and rollators fold for easier portability, but could you carry the weight of it if you had to, or could your companion or caregiver? And while rollators fold up, most of the models have a basket that doesn’t fold which may cause problems especially with getting on a plane.
  • Realistically consider the proper size. Most walkers and rollators have a weight rating that must be followed for safe operation. This is especially true for rollators with a seat. Exceeding the weight limit could cause a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Rollater braking – rollators all have some sort of braking system. Most have hand brakes or push down brakes. If you have hand brakes, can you squeeze the brake handle enough to apply brake pressure? Push down brakes work by applying weight to the handle so that a rubber stop will make contact with the ground and keep the rollator from moving forward.