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Choosing The Best Walker For Seniors

The Definitive Guide To The Best Walkers For Seniors in 2019

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If you’re looking for a walker for yourself or a loved one then you’ve probably seen there are a TON of walkers and rollators on the market right now. And determining the best one for your needs is no easy task.

Should you go with a standard walking frame? A front-wheel walker? What about a four wheel rollator? What are the pros and cons of each and how do you decide?

We’ve put this guide together to walk you through (no pun intended!) the different types of walkers available and what you need to consider before making a purchase. We’ll have you up and moving freely again in no time!

Choosing The Best Walker For Seniors

How To Choose The Best Walker For Seniors

We can break the selection process down into 7 basic steps:

  1. Determine the type of walker you need

  2. List your must-have features

  3. Decide on your budget

  4. Measure yourself for the walker

  5. Check the width of doors and walkways

  6. Read reviews of the best walkers for seniors

  7. Invest in the right solution for you and get up and moving again!

In a moment we’ll take a look at each of these in detail. But first, you need to ask yourself, is a mobility aid like a walker or rollator the right solution for your situation?

When Should You Consider a Walker?

Some people hold out too long, perhaps believing getting a walker is a sign of ageing, and wait until an accident happens that forces them to start using a walker. Unfortunately this often puts them in a weaker (or more painful) situation than if they had been using a walker before an accident happened.

A walker or rollator can be a life-saving tool for the elderly that greatly extends your independence and helps avoid the isolation that comes when you’re unable to move around freely on your own.

It’s best to err on the safe side and consider getting a walker at the first sign of any of the following:

Loss of Strength

They say that after middle age, we lose approximately 3% of our muscle strength every year. So it should come as no surprise that as you age, routine tasks you could perform effortlessly in your 30’s and 40’s become more and more challenging. Simple everyday things like getting up out of a comfy chair, getting out of a car, or walking to the shops can suddenly require Herculean effort. And the more sedentary you become, the more you lose strength, starting a downward spiral that can be difficult to overcome.

Loss of Balance

Issues with balance are one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor as they get older. And falls due to a lack of balance are one of the most common reasons older people get hurt. Some of this can be attributed simply to ageing, however in other cases this loss of balance has to do with a disturbance in the inner ear or other medical condition. You should always see a doctor if you are concerned about balance problems and may find a walker a helpful mobility aid to assist you.

Decreased Weight-Bearing Capacity or Endurance

As we age the stresses we have endured over the years start to take their toll and you may find your ability to stand for great lengths of time, or move in particular ways, becomes difficult or even impossible without assistance. Back problems, muscle weakness, surgery, arthritis, or other general aches and pains can all limit your ability to do the daily tasks you need to remain independent.

Now let’s get started by understanding the different types of walkers designed specifically for the elderly.

What Types of Walkers are Available For Sale?

There are many different types of walkers you can get, each designed for different situations and each with their own pros and cons.

Four Wheel Rollator

Four Wheel Rollator A rollator is simply a walker with a wheel on each leg. As the name implies, the four-wheeled rollator is a four-legged walker with four wheels. On most models the rear wheels are fixed and the front wheels are used for turning. This makes them extremely mobile and much faster to get around on than a standard non-wheeled walker.

These rolling walkers have brakes on the handlebars that are activated either by squeezing or pushing down on the handles.

Many rollators have a seat situated between the handlebars which makes them ideal for people who get tired easily and need to rest often. You can lock the brakes and your rollator turns into a comfy mobile chair so you can sit anytime, anywhere.

Common accessories for rollators include baskets, shopping bags, cup holders, cane holders, and phone mounts. This makes them an ideal solution for active seniors on the go.

Due to the extra features and moving parts, rollators are heavier than a standard walker. Most rollators weigh around 20lbs. However because they roll easily the weight is only usually a concern when it comes to transportation, such as getting in or out of a car, or storage.

Three Wheel Rollator

Three Wheel Rollator The three-wheel rollator is a spin-off of the four-wheel version, with a triangular design featuring two wheels at the rear and a single wheel at the front.

This makes them smaller, lighter, and more manoeuvrable than the four-wheel rollator. However the compact design and lack of a fourth leg means they do not have a seat and have less space for baskets, bags, and other accessories.

Heavy Duty Bariatric Walker

Heavy Duty Bariatric Walker Heavy duty or bariatric walkers are designed to support heavier people.

While most regular rollators top out with a weight-capacity of around 300lbs, heavy duty walkers can accomodate people up to 600lbs.

Heavy duty rollators almost always have 4-wheels, and feature reenforced frames, wider seats, and sturdier overall construction to help support the extra weight.

Upright Walker

Upright Walker Upright walkers use a slightly different design than your standard three or four wheel rollator.

Featuring taller handles with arm rests, they are designed so you place your forearms on the walker instead of your hands.

This helps take pressure off your hands, wrists, knees, and back, and can help alleviate pain you might experience with a traditional walker.

Lightweight Walkers

Lightweight Walkers Lightweight walkers are specifically designed to be as lightweight as possible.

They come in all shapes and sizes, including standard walkers, 4-wheel rollators, and 3-wheel rollators.

While there is no official definition of what’s considered a “lightweight” walker, from our experience and testing we’ve found anything under 15 pounds falls into this category.

Standard Walking Frame

Standard Walking Frame The standard walking frame is the oldest and most common design. It has four legs that adjust to the users height, no wheels, and two fixed handles at the top. This provides the most stability of all designs. However, this stability comes at a cost.

Because with each step you have to lift the walker, move it a few inches forward, then take a step. This requires more strength and coordination than many elderly people have. The movement can quickly become tiring. And the risk of tripping increases greatly on uneven surfaces or even some carpet.

On the plus side, the standard walker is lightweight, cheap, and extremely strong.

Hemi-Walker

Hemi-Walker The hemi-walker (also known as a side walker) is one of the least common walkers you will see. It has a similar design to the standard walking frame, but with only a single handle. Instead of standing in between the handles like you do with a standard walker, the hemi-walker is held by your side with one arm, similar to a cane. A hemi-walker has four legs and therefore provides more stability than a cane.

A hemi-walker is perfect for someone who has good overall strength and balance but who needs a little help sitting down or standing up. These are also the obvious solution for anyone who can only use one arm for support.

Front Wheel Walker

Front Wheel Walker The front-wheel walker is similar to the standard walking frame, however it has wheels on the front two legs so you can push it rather than having to constantly lift and move it forward. The rear legs slide along and provide stability when needed. This makes it easier to manoeuvre than the standard walker, especially over uneven terrain.

The downside to a front-wheel walker is the potential for the walker to either slip out in front of you, or become bogged down on rough surfaces or deep carpet. (You can get either slip-resistant caps or slide caps to help overcome these challenges.) It’s important not to put too much weight on the front wheels too quickly to avoid the walker slipping out in front of you. And a front-wheel walker should never be used on stairs.

Font-wheel walkers are ideal for someone who mostly needs help with balance and has sufficient strength and coordination to use them effectively. However most people find a rollator with three or four wheels a more suitable solution.

What Should You Think About Before Buying a Walker?

Choosing the best walker for you or a senior in your family can be a daunting task. Here are some things you might want to consider before making an investment in a walker or rollator:

What is the main purpose of the walker?

Do you simply need a little help with your balance when moving around the home, or are you looking for something that can assist you on an all-day adventure running errands and doing the grocery shopping?

Where are you going to use the walker?

Is it mostly for indoor use around the home? Then a standard walking frame might be all you need. Or will you be using it outdoors, on uneven terrain, or around town? If so then a fully featured all-terrain four wheel rollator might be a wiser investment.

How much space is available?

Check the width of doorways and walkways where you will be using the walker most often. While most walkers will fit through a standard doorway with ease, navigating tight passages may require a narrow walker.

How tall and heavy are you?

Most walkers are designed for an “average” person and are adjustable within certain limits. Standard walkers usually have adjustable legs while rollators usually have adjustable handle and/or seat heights. But if you are particularly tall or short then you might have to opt for a walker specifically designed for your size.

Likewise, if you are on the heavy side you may have to look at a heavy-duty walker with increased weight-bearing capacity. And if you are petite you might want to go for a lightweight walker so you will be able to move it around easily.

What features do you need?

If you are using the walker for any length of time then one of the most popular features is a walker with a seat. And if you’re running errands or doing the shopping then a shopping basket or bag are a must have — you’ll want to make sure they are large enough to fit the most common items you need to carry.

Other accessories include:

  • Drink or cup holder: useful for staying hydrated on long outings or when outdoors in the sun.
  • Mobile phone holder: so your phone is always within reach.
  • Cane holder: great if you need to be able to switch from a walker to a cane.

Do you need to transport or store the walker?

Some walkers are quite large and if they’re not collapsable they might not fit in your car or simply take up too much space in your house. Think about how you’ll be using the walker on a day-to-day basis and where it’s going to have to fit. See how much room you have and double check the measurements of the walker.

If you’ll be transporting the walker often then you’ll want to go for one that collapses or folds easily and is lightweight enough to lift it in and out your car with ease.

How do the brakes work?

If you’re looking at purchasing a rollator then it’s important to understand the different types of braking systems and which one is most suitable to your needs. The two most common types of brakes are the “squeeze” and the “push”.

Squeeze brakes work much like bike brakes where you have levers on the handlebars that are squeezed to engaged the brake. You need to have sufficient strength in your hands and the correct cognitive and motor skills to use these brakes effectively.

Push brakes are applied by simply leaning on the handlebars. These are good for people who don’t have the grip strength to use squeeze brakes. And they are a safer option for seniors who might not have the coordination required for squeeze brakes.

Most models allow you to lock the brakes for added stability when you’re not moving.

What is the walker’s frame made of and how long will it last?

The frame of a walker is generally made from steel, aluminium, or more recently, carbon fibre.

  • Steel is extremely strong but heavy, with walkers averaging over 20lbs.
  • Aluminium is equally strong but lighter, with most walkers weighing around 16-18lbs.
  • Carbon fibre is even stronger than steel or aluminium, and also much lighter… with products weighing as little as 11lbs!

Weight is really the most important consideration of the frame because any reputable brand with a weight limit suitable for you is going to be more than strong enough to last many years of hard use.

What are the walker’s components made of and how do they work?

Just as important as the quality of the frame is the quality of the components such as the wheels, brakes, seat, basket, storage, and handles.

  • Wheels – Larger wheels will roll smoother over rough terrain and handle obstacles such as rocks, cracks in the footpath, and ridges between carpet and hard surfaces much easier than small wheels.
  • Brakes – External brake cables on cheaper models can get caught when moving around and are a risk for falls, knocking things over, and damage to the walker. Internal brake cables reduce this risk.
  • Seat – Plastic or thin foam seats are OK for short periods, but if you are going to be sitting for any length of time you will want to invest in a walker with a quality memory foam seat with a backrest.
  • Shopping Basket – Wire baskets can be good for carrying larger items but if you need to carry smaller items make sure they don’t fall through the holes!
  • Storage – Is the storage compartment large enough to carry the items you need? Is it easily accessible while moving around? Is it water resistant? Does it have a safe and secure place for your valuables?
  • Handles – Plastic handles are found on most cheap walkers, they are not very comfortable and can become slippery when wet or moist from sweat. Foam grips provide more support, comfort, and safety.

What is your budget for a walker?

Finally, you need to decide on a budget for your walker. There are products available to suit every budget, but you might find to get all the features you want in a high-quality rollator you need to invest a little more than you might have initially thought. However when you look at the cost spread over the course of the walkers lifetime, and the added freedom and independence it brings you, spending a little more on a better product is nearly always a good idea.

Summary: What is The Best Walker For Senior Citizens?

Based on our research, the best walkers and rollators on the market right now are:

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

 


Fun Fact: Who Invented The Walker?

According to Wikipedia:

The first US patent was awarded in 1953 to William Cribbes Robb, of Stretford, UK, for a device called “walking aid”, which had been filed with the British patent office in August 1949. Two variants with wheels were both awarded US patents in May 1957, and the first non-wheeled design that was called a “walker” was patented in 1965 by Elmer F. Ries of Cincinnati, Ohio. The first walker to resemble modern walkers was patented in 1970 by Alfred A. Smith of Van Nuys, California.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a walker designed for seniors cost?

    Prices start at just $30 for a no-frills basic walking frame and go right up to $1,150 for the Rollz Motion 2-n-1 Rollator Transport Chair. Most products fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

  • How do I measure myself for a walker?

    Standing in your regular walking shoes, measure from the ground up to your wrist.

  • Can I buy a walker for the elderly near me?

    You might be lucky and have a fully-equipped mobility store near where you live. And if so it might be worth taking the time to visit one in person and try a few different walkers out to see which one you like best. However depending on your current location or level of mobility this might not be possible. The good news is sites like Amazon have a huge range of walkers designed specifically for the elderly that can be delivered to your door, and many of them come with FREE SHIPPING.

  • Should you buy a used walker from ebay?

    While you can occasionally find a bargain on ebay, over the last few years there have been more and more unscrupulous people selling knock-off merchandise and cheap Chinese rip offs. So it can be difficult to determine if what you’re getting is the real deal or not. But if you’re interested in going down this path, we wrote an in-depth Used Walker Buying Guide you might want to check out.

  • Where to buy bargain walkers or rollators?

    Right now Amazon has the best selection of quality brands and consistently has some of the most competitive prices online.

  • Does a rollator make a good Christmas gift?

    Yes! We interviewed twelve seniors about their favourite presents and both walkers and rollators both made the top 25 best gifts for grandparents list. If someone close to you is beginning to struggle with mobility issues then a walker can give them back their freedom and help expand their world. Just be sure to check their measurements so you get the right size.

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