How a Rollator Differs From a Walker
Laura Campedelli, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist with experience in hospital-based acute care and outpatient therapy with both children and adults.
Mobility aids provide a wonderful service. They allow people to maintain a degree of independence. Walkers and rollators are two popular mobility aids that can help tremendously.
Mobility aids come in handy when someone who has trouble getting around wants to continue living at home.
Even for children with a walking difficulty, the walker, rollator, or wheelchair can give them the independence they need to attend school or go out with their friends. Both of which are helpful for self-esteem development.
In another article, we looked at the different types of walkers. There are features that you should know about so that you can make an informed decision.
In this companion article, we will examine the different types of rollators that are available so you can make sure you are buying the walking aid that best suits your needs.
A rollator is sometimes called a "wheeled walker" but is different from a 2-wheeled walker. It consists of a frame with three or four large wheels, handlebars, and a built-in seat. It is mainly used for patients who need a walker only for balance but not for weight-bearing.
If your condition requires you to stop and rest often, a rollator could be a better choice for you. Whereas a walker has no seat, a rollator with a seat and a crossbar for back support allow the user to stop and rest when needed.
Rollators also have accessories that can be purchased, such as baskets to hold a shopping bag.
There are several types of rollators that meet different needs. Some of these features can be found together, within the same rollator. Consider the benefits and shop until you find the one that has everything you need.
As with walker features, many features available to rollators are not mutually exclusive. You can have a rollator that has height-adjustable handles, height-adjustable seat, and hand brakes.
A rollator can have a seat and handlebars that can adjust in height. Some of them have enough range to be sold as both an "adult" and "youth" model.
Unlike walkers, rollators have wheels on all of the legs, whether they are four-wheel or three-wheel rollators. Therefore, rollators have handle brakes.
The average weight of a rollator is around 15 pounds.
There are models that are advertised as "lightweight." These lightweight models can weigh around eleven pounds. A few pounds makes a difference for some people.
The other issue to consider regarding weight is "weight-capacity." Standard rollators are tested safe for people who weigh up to 250-350 pounds.
There are models classified as "bariatric" but don't stop your research there. Some bariatric models are tested safe for people up to 400 pounds while others are tested safe for people who weigh up to 500 pounds.
A bariatric rollator will typically have a lower seat to make it easier for the user to get in and out of.
Make sure to take a close look at the actual weight capacity. Also, keep in mind that the higher the weight capacity, the more the rollator itself will weigh.
Like walkers, rollators can have a feature that allows them to fold up easily. When flat, they fit easier into a car, bus, or plane.
Do you get out much? There are rollators with soft gripping casters and non-marring tires that are typically at least 6" in diameter. These serve a dual purpose and won't mark up your indoor floors while making it easier to maneuver over dirt paths in the park. Larger wheels (8" and 10") are better for the outdoors and uneven terrain.
The three-wheel rollator is shaped like a tricycle. It is lighter than most four-wheel models and some say they are easier to maneuver because the three-wheel design enables sharper turns.
This can be very handy in small spaces. These units can also have an easy-fold mechanism to make them suitable for transport. However, these do not usually have a built-in-seat.
Rollators are generally more expensive than walkers. You can expect to pay around $50 more for a rollator than a walker. Of course, this is a generalization and you should discuss cost versus features with the salesperson and your family.
Arizona Center on Aging. Walkers: Choosing the correct walker.
By Brian CarmodyBrian Carmody was a Lieutenant and Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, Brian trained for the delivery of medical care and supplies within the chaos of a battlefield, as well as within the structured organization of a military medical center. After his Active Duty service ended, Brian moved to the pharmaceutical industry and in the healthcare furniture, equipment, and supply distribution industry.