If you are a senior who has trouble walking around, you have probably considered getting a mobility aid. These products give you much-needed stability and support, thus helping you regain your confidence and freedom of movement.
Two of the most common mobility devices today are walkers and rollators. However, since these terms are often used interchangeably, it can be quite tricky to differentiate them. Technically, both are walkers but each one offers unique features and capabilities.
Fortunately, we’ve put up together this guide to help you understand the difference between a walker and a rollator. This article will discuss their definition, features, uses, and other factors that differentiate the two. Let’s get into it!
In a hurry?
The main difference between a walker and a rollator is their wheels. Basically, a walker features four legs that touch the ground. To operate this walking device, you have to lift it from the floor and take a step forward. On the other hand, a rollator has four wheels at the bottom of the legs. These allow you to move around without the need to raise the device. Choosing between the two is relatively easy. If you’re struggling to maintain your balance when moving around, go for a walker as it’s more stable. For those with weak upper arm strength and only require a little help with balance, get a rollator instead.
What is a walker?
Before you differentiate a walker from a rollator, you must learn what they both are. This will help you decide whether you need a walker or rollator.
A walker is a lightweight mobility aid that comprises a frame with four legs. These four legs help support your balance and partial weight while walking around. Located on the feet of these legs are rubber tips that allow you to use the walker smoothly on surfaces.
Walkers also feature height-adjustable legs to adapt to the user’s height, so they can use the device comfortably. Other walker accessories are also available to help with your movement.
To use this walking aid, seniors must lift it from the ground using their arms. They then move the walker forward with every step they take. As such, the user should have a firm grip and upper arm strength if they want to use a walker.
What are the different types of walkers available?
Walkers come in different sizes and purposes. Below are the types of walkers available on the market.
A standard walker is the most common type of walker. It is a lightweight device with two fixed handles, four legs, and no wheels. It offers the most enhanced support and balance to seniors who have trouble getting around.
As such, doctors or therapists usually recommend using a standard walker for the stability it provides. However, it is not the most maneuverable due to how it functions.
A wheeled walker refers to a frame with two front wheels. These offer improved mobility, ideal for users who don’t need much support but are not stable enough for a rollator.
Folding walkers are similar to standard walkers, but what makes them different is their collapsible design. They usually have two button mechanisms that enable them to fold easily and store inside the car. Thus, they are the ideal mobility devices for those who like to travel a lot.
A bariatric walker is a specialized walking aid that can often times support seniors up to 1000 pounds. It features fortified frames and broader legs to achieve an overall robust structure. Therefore, most doctors and therapists prescribe these walkers to overweight individuals.
What is a rollator?
A rollator serves, more or less, the same purpose as walkers. It offers much-needed support to seniors with mobility issues.
However, it is different from a walker because it features wheels at the end of the legs. These 360° rotating wheels enable you to move around various surfaces without the need to lift the walker. These are also the reasons why a rollator is sometimes called a rolling walker.
To stop the rollator walker, the user must simply utilize the dual-loop braking mechanism. Just squeeze or push down on the handles whenever you want to slow down the rollator.
Besides the wheels and brakes, a rollator also has various practical features like a seat and a detachable storage pouch. The walker seat offers a temporary resting area for seniors who tire easily after a long walk. On the other hand, the storage area can keep your essentials safe while you’re out and about.
Despite all these pros, you need to know that a rollator still has its fair share of cons. It usually features a wider frame, which makes it challenging to fit in narrow spaces. A rollator is also less stable than a walker due to its wheels. Therefore, doctors do not recommend it to seniors suffering from severe balance issues.
What are the different types of rollators available?
Like walkers, rollators are available in various models. Read on below to know the different types of rollators walkers.
As its name suggests, this type of walker has three wheels. It also features a triangular design that resembles a tricycle. This makes it easier to maneuver in tight spaces compared to other kinds of rollators.
Four-wheeled walkers are the most common types of rollators on the market. They offer increased mobility and have four wheels that make it easier to move across different terrains. They also feature a padded seat and backrest to use when the user gets tired. Furthermore, four-wheeled walkers offer a detachable basket or pouch for storing your items.
Like four-wheeled walkers, upright walkers feature four wheels. However, they have a different frame with taller handles and height-adjustable armrests. These enable you to rest your forearms on the rollator instead of gripping the handles. Due to this unique design, up walkers can effectively ease the pressure off your shoulders and back.
Walker VS Rollator Differences
Now that we have discussed both mobility devices and their types, it’s easier to differentiate them from each other. In a nutshell, a rollator is basically an enhanced walker. But here’s a breakdown of the real differences between these two mobility aids.
The first thing you need to know when comparing walkers and rollators is that the latter has wheels. While it’s true that some types of walkers can have wheels, these are not often the case. And even if the walker does have wheels, you can typically find them in the front legs only.
In contrast, a walker rollator features wheels on all legs. These wheels can swivel in all directions, allowing you to move across various terrains with relative ease. Most of the time, a rollator also has larger 6 to 10-inch wheels that enable you to move faster.
Since a rollator has swiveling wheels, it also features a brake system that allows you to stop the device. On the other hand, a walker does not have a braking mechanism because of how you operate them. Even if it has front wheels, it still has stationary legs in the back.
Frame and Design
Walkers and rollators also differ in terms of design.
A walker features a simple frame with little to no modifications. Therefore, most seniors may feel hesitant trying it due to its “medical” appearance that came straight out of a hospital.
In contrast, rollators are available in a wide range of designs and colors. The elderly can choose a frame that meets their personal preferences. The only downside is that a rollator is typically wider than a walker. As such, you may find it difficult to navigate tight spaces.
A walker offers minimal practical features. In general, it only has a folding mechanism that makes it easier to store during travels.
On the other hand, a rollator provides several useful features. These often include walker seats, detachable storage bags, baskets, cane or umbrella holders, and even beverage holders. These accessories make seniors’ lives more comfortable.
Because rollators offer more features, they are usually a bit more expensive than walkers. You can expect to pay around $60 to $100 more for a rollator. This is just an estimated cost, though. At the end of the day, you need to consider price vs features before buying a mobility aid.
Walkers VS Rollators: Which one should I get?
Choosing which type of walking aid you should get will entirely depend on your needs and preferences. Ask yourself the following questions before deciding between a walker or rollator:
- Am I strong enough to support myself?
- Do I need a mobility device for indoor and outdoor use?
- How far can I walk without getting tired?
- Do I need to maneuver tight spaces around my home?
- Do I prefer a mobility aid that is lightweight and can easily fold?
If you need help with balance, you should invest in a walker. While it’s true that it’s not that maneuverable, it can support your weight better. This is because the walker’s legs directly touch the ground, making it more stable. You should also go with a walker if you need to navigate narrow spaces around your home.
For those who need something that they can use indoors and outdoors, consider getting a rollator instead. Since it usually has multi-terrain wheels, you can move across various terrains with relative ease.
A wheel rollator is also an excellent mobility aid if you have a weak hand grip or arm strength. You do not need to lift the device before taking a step. You simply push the rollator forward as you move.
Lastly, a rollator with a seat and storage pouch can come in handy for seniors always on the go.
However, it’s important to know that a rollator doesn’t offer much support and stability. It is only ideal for the elderly who can maintain their balance but gets tired quickly.
While both provide much-needed support to seniors, they function differently.
Basically, a walker has four legs that touch the floor, making it a stable device. It requires the user to lift the frame before taking a step forward. Therefore, seniors with balance issues usually use a walker to support their weight.
On the other hand, a rollator has wheels at the bottom of the legs. Instead of lifting the device, you simply push it forward to get moving. As such, it gives you greater freedom of movement because it can handle various surfaces with ease. The only downside is that it sacrifices a small amount of stability for enhanced mobility.