Spring has finally arrived – at least according to the date. But, no matter what challenges the weather presents, in the next few weeks, we will all be able to come out of hibernation and start to enjoy the warmer weather. For some, getting outside may be challenged by mobility issues. So it’s good to know how to choose the right walker to ensure you are safe and independent.
Walkers vs Rollators
First off, there are walkers and there are rollators, so let’s look at the difference.
Walkers and rollators are both designed to help people with mobility or balance issues get around safely.
Walkers have four stationary legs which should be in contact with the ground when walking. This allows for stability and partial weight bearing while walking. The walker is lifted and moved forward and then set down again with each step or, if the walker has 2 or 4 small wheels, it can be slid in front of you with every step. Walkers work well indoors and are ideal in some situations – for example post surgery where you may not be able to weight-bear or may need to move very slowly and precisely.
However, long term use of a walker can become a problem as the action of lifting, moving forward and putting the walker down again with each step can be stressful on muscles and joints.
A Walker by Any Other Name…
A rollator, on the other hand, has two to four large wheels, hand brakes and a seat. It doesn’t require the user to lift it up and move it forward, so it works better for the user who lacks arm strength, but is still active and independent. Four-wheeled rollators can be used when minimal walking support is required. Rollators are faster and easier to maneuver because of the swivel wheels.
There are a number of different styles of rollators available on the market and this adds to the confusion.
Three-wheeled rollators have only one front wheel, making them much easier to maneuver in tight spaces like an apartment, however, they may not offer the stability of a four wheeled unit.
Two-wheeled rollators are suitable for people who have difficulties lifting or who walk too fast for a standard walker. It allows a more normal walking pattern, but with less stability. However, using a two-wheeled unit on sidewalks or over uneven terrain may be hard on the structure of the rollator. Using the two wheeled rollators are better for short distances or indoor use.
If you are an active and independent individual, but have balance issues or if you need to “unload” a bit as you walk, a four wheeled rollator will give you the ability and confidence to walk more. Arm supports are appropriately located in line with your shoulders and allows you to walk within the frame and to stand straight – not pushing the walker in front of you all hunched over. Leaning into the handles will take some pressure off arthritic or weak areas.
Having a walker with wheels and a seat means you will be able to “roll” along, which helps to improve your ability to walk normally. A walker with a seat will also allow you to sit and rest when you need to. Rollators with 8 – 10” wheels provide a sturdier frame which can handle the sidewalks, grass or gravel that the active user may encounter.
Rollators are ideal for the individual who still lives independently and is good support for shopping, visiting friends and family.
Knowing the difference between these products will ensure that you get the best product for your individual lifestyle, providing you with years of safe and independent walking.