The best walkers can reduce the risk of falls and improve a senior’s independence. They have the freedom to go where they want and do what they want and could see a notable improvement in their well-being as a result.
Use of mobility aids, like walkers, has increased significantly over the last few years. Not only does the US have an aging population, with more elderly residents than ever before, but an increasing number of them are fighting against their disabilities and frailties. They’re doing everything they can to hold onto their independence.
Walkers are available in a range of shapes and sizes, and the one that is best for you will depend on a number of factors, including your mobility abilities, age, weight, height, and upper body strength.
In this guide to the best walkers for seniors, we’ll address all of those issues and more.
The Types of Walkers
The mobility industry is worth billions of dollars and it is getting bigger every year. Companies inject huge sums of money into innovating the next big products and there is a huge range to peruse. Where walkers are concerned, you can choose from three main types, with multiple choices and options for each of them:
The most basic walkers are made from an aluminum frame, with four legs and rubber-tipped feet. There are handles on either side of the frame and the walker provides support for your entire body as you walk.
You need a little bit of upper body strength to use these walkers and they are best suited to people who lean forward a lot and need more support. They don’t work very well on uneven surfaces and they are also slow, with the user lifting the walker, moving it a few inches ahead, and then following it.
A rollator often has four wheels that can swivel to allow for easy turning. The handles have built-in brakes and there is also a seat in the middle, allowing you to take a break when you feel tired.
Rollators are best suited to individuals who don’t need a lot of support while walking. They can include storage pouches or baskets and are much quicker than standard walkers.
A front-wheeled walker is essentially just a standard walker with two wheels on the front. These wheels don’t swivel like a rollator, but it means the walker doesn’t need to be lifted and can simply be pushed. They are not as supportive as standard walkers, but they also take less toll on the upper body and allow for quicker movement.
Which Walker is Right for You?
The option that’s best for you will depend on your mobility, stamina, strength, and your size. It’s not just about the type of walker, either. You also need to think about all the following factors:
- Your Weight: Overweight users should always check the weight capacity of the walker. One of the most common complaints about mobility equipment is that they break or malfunction under extreme weight, but this is why they all have weight capacities.
- Walker Weight: Walkers are built with lightweight materials and are designed to be lifted and moved with ease. These weights are not uniform, though, and some are much heavier than others. You want a walker that you can lift with ease, one that is just as easy to lift on your first step as it is on your 1,000th step.
- Width: If you’re going to be using the walker indoors, you need to make sure it can fit through doorways and down hallways. Measure the narrowest areas in your home and use these measurements to find a suitable walker.
- Handles: The handles should be easy to grip and high enough so that you don’t have to hunch when you walk. Some walkers allow you to adjust the frame to suit your height and make the handles easier to hold.
- Brakes: Although rollators are a great option for individuals who need only minimal support, the brakes require a degree of force. If you have arthritis or other wrist problems, you may struggle with this.
- Walker Storage: Will you be taking the walker with you to the grocery store, do you need to carry items to and from your home? If so, look for options with storage space.
- Home Storage: The inclusion of a basket or pouch isn’t the only storage option you need to consider. You also have to think about whether or not the walker can be folded for easy storage in your home or your car. Where will you keep it, do you have enough room, or will it just get in the way?
- Cost: The cost is dependent on the type of walker and the brand. Generally, the cheapest are around $30 to $60 and the most expensive can go up to $200. Medicare can cover most of this cost, so make sure you look into it.
7 of the Best Walkers for Seniors
What follows is a list of the best walkers available right now, covering all three types outlined above. However, these are in no particular order and it is by no means a complete list. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that just because one walker is good for the average person, doesn’t mean it will be suitable for your needs.
- Vive Folding Rollator Walker: One of the most popular walkers on the market right now, the Vive Rollator is strong, comfortable, and features a bag to store small items and a pouch to hold your cane. It has large wheels, but the front pair can be removed for easy home storage.
- Able Life Space Saver Walker: Very strong and sturdy yet also incredibly lightweight. This walker can take up to 400 pounds, is narrow enough to be used at home, and can be folded away. It has two front wheels that can be switched to swivel wheels.
- ProBasics Transport Rollator Walker: Comes fitted with a padded seat and footrests that fold down. The handles are adjustable, there’s a basket for storage, and it even works as a lightweight wheelchair.
- Lumex UpRise Onyx Folding Walker: Features four handles, with a pair on two separate levels, providing assistance when standing as well as walking. Lightweight, strong, and can be folded down and stored with ease.
- OasisSpace Heavy Duty Bariatric Walker: If you weigh over 400 pounds, many of the walkers on this list simply won’t be suitable for you, but this is the exception. It can take up to 500 pounds in weight and can even be used indoors, with attachments that prevent it from damaging the hard floors in your home.
- Medline Heavy Duty Bariatric Walker: Another heavy-duty option for users up to 500 pounds. It’s wide but offers some adjustments and can also fold flat for simple storage.
- Lumex Set n’ Go Rollator: Adjust the seat and the handles to find a height that suits you. This is a strong rollator that can take up to 300 pounds and has some neat storage options for your essentials, as well as a basket for groceries and other small items.
Conclusion: Buying a Walker
There are mobility aids for all stages of immobility but the one that works best for you is a matter of personal preference and not some kind of natural progression. For instance, while canes are often the go-to mobility supports for individuals with mild disabilities and mobility issues, they won’t work for everyone.
You may feel unsteady when using a cane and feel like it doesn’t provide the level of support you need. In such cases, walkers may be the better option. By the same token, if you injure your foot or ankle, crutches will be recommended, but if you don’t have the upper body strength you may opt for knee walkers or a wheelchair.
Just because you haven’t tried a cane doesn’t mean you’re not ready for a walker. Similarly, just because you occasionally use a wheelchair, doesn’t mean your condition is too advanced for walkers. Speak with your healthcare provider, try a few different options, and see if they work for you.
Remember to consider not just how they look and feel, but how easy they are to move around after an hour or two of use.