For elderly persons who need some help with balance and support while walking but are not yet at the point of needing a wheel chair or mobility scooter, rollators and walkers are good options.
But which one of the two should you get?
They are both very different in design and use, meaning each is ideal for different situations. Choosing the right one is essential for the safety and comfort of the user.
But first, it’s important to understand exactly what each type of walking aid does and it’s benefits.
Walkers are usually the next step up from a walking stick. They are recommended for elderly persons who need more support and stability than a cane can offer.
Walkers have a very simple design. It’s simply a frame with a place to hold with both hands and four legs that touch the ground.
To use it, the user has to lift the walker as they walk. That’s why it is important that the user have adequate upper body strength to operate the walker.
Most walkers are very lightweight to make it easy for users to lift them.
If they cannot completely lift the walker off the ground, consider getting a 2-wheeled walker.
This is a walker with two wheels at the front and normal non-wheeled legs at the rear. The user needs only to lift the back slightly and push the walker forward. It requires less strength to operate.
Advantages of Walkers
- They give the user more control over walking speed. This is helpful for those with balancing and stability problems.
- They are fairly easy to operate. The user only needs to lift the walker. They don’t need to engage brakes or press any buttons.
- They are more affordable compared to rollators.
Disadvantages of Walkers
- They require enough upper body strength to operate especially on uneven ground.
- They are not ideal for fast walking.
Unlike walkers that have very simple and basic designs, modern rollators look more stylish and have more features.
But the most distinctive feature of rollators is the wheels.
A rollator has 3 or 4 wheels. It doesn’t need to be lifted up. All the user needs to do is gently push it along.
This requires much less energy than a walker. It’s great for users with reduced upper body strength and those with a condition like arthritis that prevents them from properly holding and lifting a walker.
To prevent the rollator from moving too fast for the user, they are fitted with brakes that slow down the rollator and can be locked to prevent any movement at all.
Rollators come with extra features and accessories including a padded seat and backrest as well as a shopping bag or basket.
Like walkers, rollators are made from lightweight materials, usually aluminium, to make them easy to use.
Advantages of Rollators
- They are easier to operate for users with a weaker upper body. No lifting necessary.
- They are ideal for outdoor use and long walks. Users can rest at any time on the attached padded seat.
- Extra accessories including seat, backrest and basket for added convenience.
- They provide good support and balance and allow a smoother and faster walking style.
Disadvantages of Rollators
- They are more expensive than walkers.
- Can be a bit difficult to operate for those with reduced balance especially when going downhill or on an uneven path.
Which one should you buy?
Buy a walker if:
- The user has enough upper body strength to operate it.
- It’s mostly for indoor use such as going from the bedroom to the bathroom.
- You are on a tight budget. If you’d have preferred to get a rollator but your budget won’t allow, consider getting a two-wheeled walker.
Buy a rollator if:
- The user needs extra help with support and stability. If they are not strong enough to lift a walker, a rollator is the best and safest option.
- It’s mostly for outdoor use around the yard and neighbourhood. Rollators are better than walkers for outdoor use.
- The user needs to frequently rest while walking. The seat and backrest will come in handy.
Whichever type of walking aid you decide to buy, make sure it’s good quality, lightweight and has an adjustable height.