walker or rollator
When you choose a walker, it's important to
take the user's hand strength and cognitive ability into account. Rollators
with brakes and seats are wonderful, but can be dangerous if the user lacks the
strength or presence of mind to operate them safely.
Here are some additional factors to consider
when choosing the best walker:
- Consult a physical therapist if possible. A physical therapist can also adjust the walker's size properly
and teach you how to use it safely. This is especially valuable if the walker
is needed because of an injury. If you don't have access to a physical
therapist, most experts recommend that the walker's handles be adjusted level
with the crease of your wrist. (Stand in your shoes, with your arms hanging
straight at your side.) The Mayo Clinic also offers a useful slideshow that can help you learn how to fit and use your
- Not all walkers fit through bathroom doors. Check the width of bathroom doorways in the user's primary
residence; many are only 24 inches wide.
- Check the fit to your body. The
handlebars on more walkers, and occasionally the seat, adjust up and down to
fit your body. Be sure the width of both seat and frame are wide enough for
whoever will be using the walker, and that it's rated to bear the user's
weight. If the walker or rollator has a seat, your feet should be flat on the
floor when you're seated.
- Look at warranty and parts availability. Warranties vary among brands, and customer service and parts
availability differ even more. If a walker is used regularly, some parts like wheels
will need replacing from time to time. Using a walker with worn or damaged
parts, or disregarding manufacturer instructions to use specific parts, can put
you at risk of an injury.
- Wheels and glides matter. For
indoor use, small wheels of 3 to 5 inches in diameter are fine. For outdoor
use, larger wheels of 6 to 8 inches are better. Tires that are too hard may
slip, so softer tires are safer even though they'll wear faster. If a walker
uses glides, read reviews or test before purchase to be sure they won't scratch
- Consider ease and safety of folding. Whenever possible, have the person who'll be using the walker
practice folding and unfolding it to make sure they're comfortable with the
process. Beware of trigger-style releases on a folding frame; accidentally
gripping the release instead of the walker handle will cause the walker to
start collapsing. You may also like to have a clip or strap that you can wrap
around the walker to keep it from unfolding once it's closed up.
- Compare storage and accessories. Rollators (and some frame walkers) come with a basket or pouch for
extra storage; some users prefer the closed pouches because they say they're
less likely to tempt a robber. Add-on storage bags and cup holders are available
to fit just about any walker, but be sure the accessories you want will fit the
walker you choose. For example, a paddle release on the top bar of a folding
frame walker could prevent the use of a food tray.
Know before you go
Walkers are not
wheelchairs. It can be tempting to use
a walker equipped with a seat and wheels as a wheelchair, or for the user to
roll around the room while seated, but rollators aren't designed to withstand
such use, even when the user doesn't weigh much. Improper use can weaken the
frame, wheels or seat and cause the walker to break.
Walkers need maintenance. For safety, all parts of a walker should be checked at least
weekly for damage or wear. If anything seems to be wrong, fix it before the
walker is used again. Examine the frame and joints, check the brakes, and lean
on the seat hard to make sure it doesn't crack under stress. If the user can't
or won't do this, someone else must. This might seem obvious, but we found a
number of reports made to the FDA about walker accidents that could have been
prevented by good maintenance or prompt repairs.
Know your warranties. Walker frames often carry lifetime warranties, but most parts
built into walkers will wear out with normal use. Many users are surprised when
their walker's wheels, brakes, handles or seat need replacing after about a
year. When choosing your walker or rollator, be sure that replacement parts are
Proper fit is important. In an
article from the American Physical Therapy Association, therapists say that having a walker that's properly fit to
your body is key in diminishing discomfort and decreasing your risk of a fall.