What Are The Different Types Of Walkers For The Elderly?

narrow indoor rollator for narrow halls and doorways

Heraclitus – one of the greatest Greek philosophers – once said that everything is in a state of flux. He was right – When you want your independence along with some support because of mobility issues, walkers or rollator walkers are a handy solution. They are safe and cost effective way to help keep an active lifestyle for seniors. But what are the different types of walkers for seniors or those with a disability?

Not surprisingly there is a good range available from the basic walker, 2, 3 or 4 wheeled walkers and rollators all the way to powered rollators which look like a small scooter!

Walkers can be life changing options for those seniors who are strongly independent and may help in dealing with reduced mobility. 

What Are The Different Types Of Walkers -Things To Think About

Take a moment to think about your specific needs. Get pen and paper and jot down a list of important points such as:

  • How you intend to use your walker?
  • What size walker?
  • Do you need a bariatric walker?
  • Does it need to be a folding walker so you can go on car trips?
  • What about narrow passages?
  • Do you need a 2, 3 or 4 wheel walker?
  • Smaller or larger wheels for better performance and user comfort
  • Do you need greater speed and comfort, or will a basic wheeled walker suffice?

Age needn’t stop stop our lives from being restricted. With support from our family and friends along with a great walker, freedom, independence and trips off shopping are all possible.

Choosing the best type of walker for the elderly can take a little research which is why we suggested you sit down and make a list. This is a useful way to narrow down exactly what walker will be the most suitable for your needs. What are the different types of walkers – designs and features that you might like?

Now let’s get started.

Types of Walkers For Elderly

how to choose the best Narrow Walkers For Seniors

There are walkers and there are walkers. You need to know which type of walker is suitable for you or for the family member who’d like to buy one. Look for one which provides a sturdy support system, comfortable to use and makes you feel safe.  There is some confusion over what are the different types of walkers and what benefits each design offers. These 5 styles cover each group and there are variations of designs and looks in each of those 5 groups! Your choice comes down to benefits, features, looks and how much support you need.

1) What Is A Standard Walker?

This walker is fitted with 4 rubber-tipped legs to provide stability and avoid skidding. It is lightweight and mostly features an aluminum frame. To use it, you need to lift it, move it forward, and walk towards it. This type of walker is definitely not suitable for older people with weak hands and upper body.

What is a standard walker useful for?

A standard walker is ideal for those prone to falling or have leg injuries as they provide greater support and stability. However, they are hard to move around easily and not appropriate for uneven ground.

Most manufacturers make walkers with a weight capacity of zero to 500 pounds and are adjustable for the person’s height.

Standard Walker Accessories

By adding a hook to the walker, users can easily carry personal items such as a purse or a bag. Often accessories such as storage trays, wire baskets or mobility bags can be attached.

How Do You Size A Walker?

Before buying a walker, you need to check the size, is it height adjustable? Are you very tall or very short? To work this out – let your hands hang down naturally at your sides. Get a tape measure and measure from the crease in your wrist, where your hand joins your arm, to the floor.

Ideally, this is the correct handle height of the unit. Try to choose a walker that is adjustable an inch or two higher than your actual measurement so you can adjust it as necessary.

Grips are located on either side of the walker. They are generally made from plastic, foam or other soft materials like gel which are softer on sore hands.

2) What is A 2 Wheel Walker?

A 2 wheel walker is the same as the above design, only with 2 wheels at the front. 2-Wheel walkers have wheels on the 2 front legs and rubber tips or stoppers on the rear legs. The rubber on the rear prevents the walker from rolling away when walking. This walker can bear weight, and is beneficial for users looking for stability.

How Do You Use A 2 Wheeled Walker?

Using a 2 wheel walker is a little easier as you don’t have to pick up the frame to move it. By lifting the back a little, the front wheels glide along without having to pick up the walker.

As with most walkers, these fold up for easier transport, as well as being height adjustable to suit individual needs. Some 2 wheel walkers may include a seat so the user can rest while out and about.

While these walkers are easier to manoever than a standard walker, they are still restrictive.

3) What Is A 3 Wheel Walker?

3 Wheel walkers are the ideal solution for those who need minimal support. They are ideal for navigating tight spaces as they are designed for increased maneuverability with a tight turning radius. They are compact and fast with braking systems.

This walker has 2 rear wheels and 1 front wheel, giving it a narrower  triangular profile. Designed to be lightweight with aluminum frames, they are fast, light and easy to move. These rollator walkers are a great option, easy to fold up, lightweight and out of all the walkers they provide the user with outstanding ease of use.

Are 3 Wheeled Walkers Safe?

What are the downsides to 3 wheel walkers? Well yes. If you need a lot of support, this model is not for you.  3 Wheel walkers provide less support with a lower weight capacity. Bearing down too much on one can make them difficult to maneuver.

Are 3 wheel walkers safe to use, yes, they are, provided you use them as a light aid to help with balance. Active older people who only need a little balance support will benefit from using these 3 wheelers.

The main disadvantage is the absence of a seat. Because the design of the rollator is triangular, there simply isn’t sufficient space for a seat.

What Is The Lightest 3 Wheel Walker?

Probably the lightest 3 wheel walkers are made by Drive Medical and Carex. These 3 wheel walkers weigh about 10 lbs, making them ideal for older people to use and transport.

4) What Is A 4 Wheel Walker?

This style of rollator walker has 4 wheels, and is ideal for those who who need a more stable support base to support their weight and for balance. It is highly mobile and is fitted with brakes on the handlebar that can be activated by squeezing or pushing the handles. They are also called rollators because they have a wheel on each leg.

It has a basket, a seat and is height adjustable. It’s also lightweight, can be folded and has a hand operated braking system.

What is A 4 Wheeled Walker Used For?

A 4 wheeled walker makes it easy to get around, offering greater ease, independence and support. They are far easier to use if you don’t have the strength or endurance to lift and push a regular walker around.

They help you balance with the stability the 4 legs offer to lean on and the easy rolling wheels give you the freedom of moving more quickly and smoothly than you could with a walker without wheels.

4 Wheel rollator walkers can supports weights up to 500lbs and more. They are a stable and durable aid for independence.

What Is The Difference Between A Rollator And A Walker?

Many people use the terms rollator and walker interchangeably without realizing they are actuality completely different! Technically a walker is a frame with handles and legs without wheels, or legs with 2 wheels at the front. A rollator has 3 or 4 wheels along with handlebars and hand operated brakes.

Walkers are usually smaller than rollators.

How Do You Use A 4 Wheel Rollator Walker?

Learning how to use a wheel walker is easy. They offer safe, strong support. When you are ready to go places, position your walker ahead of you before you start walking.

As you start walking, gently push, or roll the walker ahead of you, keeping the walker sufficiently close by in front of you so it is both supportive and easy to stop. Don’t stretch your arms out too far which will keep the walker at a greater distance. And, it’s harder to brake safely if the walker is too far away.

Turning Using A Walker

Turning is easy. Keeping the walker close, roll the walker around you without twisting, pivoting slowly so you face the front of the walker.

Stopping Using A Walker

Stopping is as simple as using the locking brakes on the handlebars. Grip the handlebars and wrap your fingers around the hand brakes, gently squeezing them closed. The loop locking brakes are a good support if you find yourself losing balance. They’ll help prevent you falling forwards.

Using the Seat To Rest

what to look for when buying a rollator walker for support

Unlike the previous styles of walker, one of the great benefits of 4 wheel walkers is the seat. A comfortable padded seat allows you to take a rest when needed. You have an instant seat to stop for a while to chat with friends, or admire the view. Most walkers have a basket which sits under the seat which flips up for easy access.

Like to know more about rollator transport combos?

5) What Is A Rollator Transport Chair?

A walker transport chair, or rollator transport chair as they are known, are a 2 in 1 combination as you can guess by the name. They easily convert from a rollator to a full transport chair so a friend or family member can bring you back home in style.

Independence And Stability

Why would you buy one? These designs allow you to remain independent by providing a design with unparalleled stability that gives you the confidence to go anywhere. If you need to rest, they easily convert from a rollator to a full transport chair.

Same Hand Grips And Locking Brakes As A Rollator

A 2 in 1 rollator wheelchair has the same hand grips and brakes as your regular rollator walker. The rollator part looks the same as your 4 wheel rollator, but once you flip down the footrests and flip back the backrest, it instantly converts to a transport wheelchair.

Newer Designs Are Portable

Portable and lightweight, you can fold and store the rollator chair after use at home or in the car. Some walker/transport chairs come complete with storage bags for easier check in at the airport.

Here are some popular examples of the best rollator transport chairs

Frame Size

Rollators and walkers come in different frame sizes and materials. However, the majority of frames are made of steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber. The material used to make the frame determines the weight of the walker.

Check The Weight

For instance, steel frames are strong but heavy, while aluminum frames are strong and light, weighing as little as 10lbs. On the other hand, carbon fiber frames tend to be strong and extremely light, but more on the expensive side.

Walkers Can Support Weights Of Up To 600Lbs

A lightweight walker is designed to be light, and is made of lightweight frames. On the other hand, a bariatric walker is built to support heavier weight people, and built with a sturdy frame for maximum support. The frame of a bariatric walker is reinforced to provide additional support for people weighing 600lbs.

Consider your weight when buying a walker because it determines whether you need a lightweight walker, rollator walker, or a walker wheelchair combo that can accommodate the elderly with health challenges.

Types of  Rollator Walker Wheels

Walkers have different types of wheels. Some walkers have 2 wheels, while others have 3 or 4 wheels as we mentioned previously. Each type of wheel is best suited for different needs. We strongly suggest when looking for a suitable walker, think about which type of wheels will give you the maximum benefit and smoothest ride.

There are pneumatic air tires and solid tires.

Wheel Size

The size of the walker frame determines the mobility of the walker and the terrain it can handle. While a lot of people pay attention to the number of wheels, the size of the wheels is equally important.

Where Are You Planning To Use Your Walker?

The wheels of a walker need to be responsive. Where will you use your walker? Do you need a walker for indoors or outdoors? If you are looking for a walker to use outdoors, then ideally you could consider a walker with larger and thicker tires in the 8 to 10 inch range. If the path is rougher, the larger diameter helps navigate the uneven outdoor terrain more easily.

Larger Sized Wheels Offer More Comfort

Usually wheel sizes are in the 8 inch vicinity with some as large as 10 inches. Larger sized wheels give you a far smoother ride with less jarring on the hands, wrists and arms. If you like spending time outside, going to the shops, the park or meeting friends, larger wheels are preferable.

Smaller Diameter Wheels Are Best For Indoors Use

Should you be looking for a walker to mostly use indoors, one with smaller 6 inch wheels will do the job well. Wheel sizes can be as small as 6 inches and are excellent for smoother, flat surfaces and indoor use. They are not suitable for rough ground. They’ll bump and jump over rough ground and the impact will vibrate up your arms.

 

Rollator Walker Seats

While the majority of walkers come fitted with seats, there are a few styles which don’t. Is a seat essential? Most definitely, yes. A comfy well padded seat, preferably one with memory foam, is essential for those  needing to rest while out walking.

A comfortable seat such as the Invacare above features a well padded seat and fitted with a padded backrest. If you intend on sitting for a long time, we recommend going for a walker with quality memory foam cushion for maximum comfort.

Locking Brakes

Different walkers have different types of the braking system. However, the most popular brakes are the loop locking, push and squeeze.

Squeeze Brake System

Not sure how squeeze brakes work? You squeeze the levers on the handlebars to engage the brakes which instantly bring the walker to a stop. These brakes are ideal for people with good hand strength to press the levers. They do require functional motor skills to respond quickly when the need arises.

Push Brakes

With push brakes, you only need to lean on the handlebars to activate the brakes. This braking system makes them suitable for people lacking hand strength, balance and motor coordination.

It’s crucial to look for a walker that allows you to lock the brakes so that you can be stable when not moving, such as when you’ve stopped to talk to friends, or sitting down.  Good brakes help avoid knocking into things or at worst, taking a fall.

Adjustability

This is such an important factor. If you are very tall you will need a walker with handles that can extend higher. Conversely, if you are very short you will need a walker where the handles can be lowered right down as you don’t want your arms to be lifted up high, causing shoulder discomfort. The ability to adjust the height is essential in a walker.

You need a walker that you can adjust to fit into your arms comfortably. Having a well-fitting walker at the right height and angle help protect your back and shoulder from straining.

Take a few moments to consider where you will use the walker and where you will store it. You need a walker that can be folded to fit in the car and the storage area in the house. Handles that can retract are ideal.

Accessories

The type of accessories you need in a walker depends on your health and activities. If you have trouble walking for long without taking rest, then buying a walker with a seat is crucial.

If you like keeping in touch with your family through the phone, you might want to look out for a walker with a mobile phone holder. Furthermore, if you want to keep healthy and hydrated, then a cup-holder could come in handy. Finally, a walker with a shopping basket can be helpful for those who love to shop and running errands.

We’ve put together a list of 5 useful everyday walker accessories

Weight And Portability

If you are lightweight or average weight person, you want a lightweight walker for ease of use, maneuverability and to transport easily. However, if you are on the heavier side, you need a heavy-duty walker capable of supporting your weight. There are heavy duty walkers capable of supporting weights up to 600lbs.

The best walkers for the elderly should be easy to fold and store. If you regularly travel in a car or have limited space in the house, then look for a walker that is both portable and foldable.

Width Of The Walker

Don’t be caught out by the width of your walker. What happens when you suddenly discover your new walker simply doesn’t fit down the hall, doorways or isles?  You definitely need to pay attention to the width of the walker because it makes or breaks our user experience and convenience.

If you need the support of a heavy duty walker because of health issues, a walker with a big width can make it hard work navigating through small rooms or spaces with furniture. Walls and doorways can be damaged from the walker knocking into them, simply due to lack maneuverability.

The benefits of a narrow lightweight walker allows you to move freely. Another plus, they easily fit into the car without requiring you to rearrange the furniture. When buying a new rollator, check the dimensions of the frame and go for 3-wheel walker and 4-wheel walkers that are narrow and suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Final Thoughts About What Are The Different Types Of Walkers

Using a walker for the elderly or those with physical issues is a fantastic option for returning independence, stability and support. Retaining choice and independence at any age is one of life’s givens, that we can be free and not relying on others as much as possible.

While prices for walkers can start for as little as $35, they can jump to as much as $600 and  more. Ultra-light frames and other specialty features may also affect the price. Yes, cost does play an important factor, but your safety and security is equally important. By understanding what are the different types of walkers, you’ll have a better understanding of what each style offers and the cost. Cheap walkers don’t offer the features and security more expensive models bring.

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