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Walkers can help older adults maintain an active lifestyle by providing a safe way to stay mobile.
Finding the right walker to fit your needs may take some trial and error, but knowing the key features to look for, as well as having options to choose from, can make the experience a lot more successful.
We talked with an expert who helped us understand what to look for. We also compiled a list of walkers with high ratings for older adults who are looking for help with everything from mobility and balance issues to recovering from a stroke or surgery. Read on to learn more.
When shopping for a walker for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to choose a walker with features that will suit your needs.
Since walkers come in a variety of styles and price ranges, doing your homework before you shop can help make the process go a lot smoother.
Types of walkers
The most common walkers for seniors include:
- standard walker
- two-wheeled rolling walker
- four-wheeled walker (also known as a “rollator”)
If you have an unstable gait and need to bear a significant amount of weight on a walker, the University of Arizona Center on Aging says a standard walker is best.
If you have an unstable gait but don’t need to bear a lot of weight on the walker, they recommend a two-wheeled or rolling walker. And if you just need a walker to help you balance, the four-wheeled is a great place to start.
Talk with an expert who understands your needs
With so many choices, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor, a physical therapist, or an occupational therapist before you buy a walker. They can help you get going in the right direction.
You can also work with an assistive technology specialist. This is an expert who helps individuals select and use adaptive devices.
Key features to focus on
To help you home in on a few features, we asked Megan Wilson, PT, DPT, ATP, a physical therapist and certified assistive technology practitioner at St. Jude Medical Center, Centers for Rehabilitation, for her expert input on what to look for in a walker.
Here’s what she says:
- Adjustability. Look for adjustability in the height of the handles for appropriate fit and support. “A 6-foot-2-inch senior would not use the same height walker as a 5-foot person,” Wilson says.
- Appropriate stability. “If you need a lot of support, a front-wheeled walker is needed,” Wilson says. But if you’re looking for something that will help your endurance and provide a seat to sit on, a four-wheeled walker/rollator with a seat is ideal.
- Weight rating. Most walkers are rated up to use for 300 pounds. For higher body weights, Wilson says to consider a bariatric model.
- Pros: Affordable, comfortable, and comes with a pouch to store belongings.
- Cons: Can be on the heavier side.
- Price point: $
The walkers from Drive Medical score high with users. Their walkers range from inexpensive models with minimal features to top-of-the-line walkers with all the bells and whistles.
This Drive Medical four-wheel rollator provides maximum comfort while still being highly reliable and durable. It comes with a fold-up removable back support and is appropriate for indoor and outdoor use.
- Pros: Has a seat; easier to push than the folding front wheeled walker
- Cons: Heavier than the fixed wheel folding walker. It also has less stability
- Price point: $$
This walker comes with four wheels, a folding seat, and hand brakes. Plus, the front wheels can be set in a swivel or fixed position.
- Pros: Highly adjustable, provides support, folds for transportation, durable, comes with a hard plastic glide on the back of the walker for improved glide, and it’s inexpensive.
- Cons: Doesn’t have a seat, and it’s more work to use on community surfaces compared with four-wheeled walkers.
- Price point: $
The Invacare dual release walker is a lightweight, easy to lift, front-wheeled walker that comes with several height adjustments. It’s also durable and has a 300-pound weight capacity.
- Pros: Good for longer distances and for those who need some support but not as much as the front-wheeled walkers.
- Cons: More expensive than some walkers.
- Price point: $$$
The Medline Premium Empower rollator is a four-wheeled folding walker that comes with comfort handles, a thick backrest, microban antimicrobial protection, a basket under the seat, and large wheels.
- Pros: Folds from the middle, so it’s more easily transported than the other rollators.
- Cons: More expensive than other walkers.
- Price point: $$$
The Nitro aluminum rollator, a Euro-style walker, is one of the lightest weight four-wheel walkers on the market. It collapses easily and comes with adjustable handles and back support.
- Pros: Users can walk until fatigued and then sit in it and have someone push them. Comes with leg rests.
- Cons: May work better on smoother surfaces.
- Price point: $$
Both a rollator/four-wheeled walker and a double transport chair, the Lumex HybridLX rollator is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a walker and chair.
Price point guide
Even though walkers are an effective way to prevent falls, many older adults are resistant to using them. According to one study, the reasons older adults give for not wanting to use a walker include:
- feeling they’re a threat to identity
- purporting not to need such assistance
- ease of use
- poor fit
- not being accessible at all times
The researchers also discovered that many older adults lacked knowledge about fall prevention and proper use of a walker. That’s why education is so critical to improving the use of walkers.
If you or a loved one are struggling with the idea of using a walker, Wilson says the first thing to focus on is safety. “A walker will keep you more mobile for longer, and it can help prevent falls and injury,” she says.
Another benefit is that many walkers have seats in them, which provides access to places you may have avoided in the past.
“Malls, movie theaters, shopping, family events, or sports arenas/fields are accessible with more support as well as a mobile seat,” Wilson says.
Walkers also give you more independent access to home and community, so you’re not holding on to someone for balance.
Finally, most insurance providers will pay for a walker with a prescription, which Wilson says reduces the out-of-pocket cost to you.