Best Rollator (Walker): Older Adults Explore

 

When your parent, or friend, (or you) starts looking a bit shaky when they walk, what do you do?

 

Some type of cane is an obvious first step. But what if that does not work, or they don't like it?

Is a walker or rollator the solution? And is there such a thing as a "stylish" walker? And how do you pick a rollator that fits the person's specific life situation anyway?

Many of the Longevity Explorers find themselves in this situation, and as a community we have been exploring how to find the best rollator for a specific person and situation.

This exploration is the synthesis of what we are learning. 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Overview

Many older adults, especially those in retirement communities, use a rolling walker (the wheeled version of a walker is called a Rollator).

But these products come in many shapes and sizes, with various features. How do you know which features matter?

For example, how do you decide things like:

  • three wheels or four;
  • large wheels or small
  • which types of brakes are most suitable; and
  • do you need a seat on the rollator?

And surely the answers depends on your lifestyle, do they not?

 

This Exploration

The Longevity Explorers have an ongoing initiative to understand how to choose the best rollator (rolling walker).

We have been investigating this topic in a series of discussions and research reports — and this article summarizes what we have learned together so far. This is a work in progress and we expect it will be updated as our community learns more. For extra details, you can read and listen to the original discussions, attached on the right (if you are on a big screen) or below (if you are on a small screen).

This exploration includes a detailed presentation from one of the explorers — on what matters in choosing a rollator — which he put together after researching the topic, because he needed a rollator for his wife.

It also includes specific product suggestions — products that individual explorers have found useful, or are researching with a view to purchasing for themselves or a spouse or parent.

One key learning from this exploration is that there are some relatively new rollator products specifically designed to address some of the most negative aspects of the traditional "walker".

For example:

  • There is a new product designed with the goal of being "stylish".
  • There are several "all-terrain" rollators designed to allow you to "go where you wish" rather than constraining you to pavements and indoors.
  • Several of the newer models aim to help with "posture" — and avoid that hunched over look that is so common among people using a conventional walker.
  • There are specific designs that are especially suited for people with conditions like Parkinson's, and specific features such people need beyond those in an everyday rollator or walker.

All these topics are covered below.

 

Disclosures

We have not done in-depth, hands-on testing of the products mentioned here, as we do for some product categories — although in many cases our explorers have researched and purchased the products under discussion.

We include links so you can view some of the products on Amazon or the vendor's website, and purchase them if you wish. Some of these links are "affiliate links", and we have negotiated relationships with some of the companies mentioned in this article whereby readers get a "discount" if they use a specific discount code for the product, and Tech-enhanced Life gets a referral fee*.

 

 

What is a Rollator and Who Needs One?

Walkers are frames (typically with four legs) that provide stability to someone when walking, and are commonly used after medical procedures, such as a hip replacement, in which people need maximal stability and help with balance problems.

Rollators are basically walkers with wheels on the bottom. This makes them much more maneuverable, and easier to push, although at the cost of being less "perfect" in stability.

Rollators are commonly recommended by physiotherapists and other clinicians for individuals who need help with balance and stability in their everyday life, and for whom the wheels are a desirable benefit — making it far easier to "get around".

 

 

Different Rollators for Different Life Situations

As the explorers discussed rollators, it became clear that different people had very different requirements.

And some people had decided they needed several rollators: for example one for home, and one for travel.

Below are suggestions that emerged for specific categories.

 

Rollators to Use at Home

For individuals who need a rollator to safely navigate their home, some of the key requirements people mentioned were:

  • small size;
  • ease of maneuver around furniture etc;
  • some type of "basket" to help moving things from one room to another (laundry was mentioned frequently).

Several people had very basic three wheel rollators that they could easily handle in the home environment.

More advanced features, like seats and complex braking systems, seemed less relevant for a rollator to be used solely at home.

If this is the only thing you need a rollator for, you probably can do with a rather simple product.

There are some special "durable medical equipment" stores that often carry this type of product, and Amazon seems also to have quite a broad selection.

 

Rollators for "Out and About"

A much more complex situation is when you need a rollator when you are "out and about".

There were conflicting requirements among different people for these types of situations. We group these into two "buckets": grocery shopping and All-terrain.

 

Grocery Shopping

One group of people wanted the rollator for things like going grocery shopping.

For them, what mattered were things like:

  • small, folds easily, light so I can put it in the trunk myself;
  • a bag or basket so I can add my shopping;
  • a seat to rest on if I get tired.

The simple foldable rollators on Amazon might be a good place to start, although we don't have specific recommendations for this type of product.

 

All-terrain Rollators

Most of the rolling walkers described above, and in Don's presentation below, are for use on pavement or roads or indoors. But a recurring theme in our explorer discussions on walkers has been the desire to go off-road.

What this meant was that people wanted to be able to go for those long walks they liked doing in the past, or to go on hikes, or to the park, or to the beach. This usually involved going off the path, which meant they needed some type of all-terrain rollator.

As one of our explorers (Elaine L.) who uses a walker says:

"I want to be empowered, and to go where I want to go". 

 

Caption: Elaine L. (who has MS, and is the inventor of this particular all-terrain rollator) went for a stroll on this walking trail, and chatted with Richard Caro about the rig's performance as they encountered a variety of trail conditions.

 

Elaine went way further than most people would, and actually designed a novel new "all terrain walker," and you can read more about that here. But Elaine's walker is only a prototype and not available for sale, and we wanted to find some all-terrain walkers / rollators we could actually buy.

Luckily, in the last few years several all-terrain rollators have come to our attention, typically produced in Europe, but available now also in the USA. Some of our explorers have acquired them and been very enthusiastic. 

Here are two rollators about which the explorers are especially positive [links go to our database where you can learn more]:

 

Rollators to Help with Posture

The stooped over, frail grannie shuffling along behind her walker is a cliche, and a popular, ageist, media stereotype.

But, like many stereotypes, it is based on reality. And a number of the Longevity Explorers are looking for ideas that can help improve posture while using a rollator — and avoid that stooped, hunched appearance.

Recently, several rollators have been designed especially with the goal of improving posture. They typically do this either by changing the position of the wheels compared to where the person stands, or changing the details of how you hold onto the rollator (for example with forearm rests, rather than a place for your hands).

Here are two specific examples [links go to our database where you can learn more]:

 

Can a Rollator be Stylish?

Unfortunately, many walkers and rollators are rather ugly and come with unattractive connotations of frailty and decline.

Some people who need a rollator have the opinion that "I am old enough that I no longer care much about how I look". And for those people, the conventional products may be fine.

But there is a strong and widespread opinion among the older adults with whom we interact, that goes something like this:

"Just because I am xx yrs old, doesn't mean I have lost interest in looking my best, or in how I want to be perceived.

I want to be seen as an interesting and vibrant human being as long as possible, and I take a pride in my appearance".

In 2020 a new rollator came to market that was actually designed to be stylish. Our explorers thought this was a rather exciting development. It's shown below.

 

Foray Spring Rollator

Caption: The Foray Spring Rollator (reprinted with permission).

 

We have not yet had reports back about how well it works, or whether explorers felt it had accomplished its goals of being "stylish; and easier to use; and better for posture". But in pictures and description it looks promising.

If you try one, please come back and report in the comments section.

 

 

Rollator for Parkinson's and Other Neurological Conditions

One of our explorers is in the middle of researching a rollator for his wife who has Parkinson's.

He has not yet bought one, but he has a "feature set" he thinks important. (Thanks to explorer Pete K. for sharing this).

  • sturdy base with low center of gravity to help prevent tip overs to the sides (his physical therapist said she has seen many rollators that do tip over easily),
  • it has wheel brakes that engage when the handles are released,
  • the rear wheels can have the rolling friction adjusted so it does not run away,
  • it has a seat with storage under it,
  • it offers a laser option so that Parkinson freezing can be overcome by looking at the floor laser,
  • it has a cadence counter option for exercise,
  • the company will do the paperwork to get Medicare reimbursement if eligible,
  • there is a front wheel to help with curbs and other bumps.

In his research so far, this product seemed closest to having this set of requirements:

 

 

Other Intriguing Mobility-Tech Options

In researching this topic, we found several other intriguing "mobility tech" options.

These included:

  • a novel "walking bike" without pedals (the Alinker);
  • various types of powered wheelchairs that seemed notably different to current wheelchairs in aspects like style, weight, and portability.

See these further down the page in the panel of products "from the Longevity Explorer listings database".

 

 

 

How Do I Choose a Rollator? What Matters?

Don S., a member of the Saratoga Retirement Community Explorer Circle, has been researching the best rollator to purchase for a family member. 

He volunteered to collect the research he had been doing on this topic and share it with the broader Longevity Explorer community.

Below is his presentation (an audio recording and slides). The discussion that follows the presentation is well worth listening to, as the 14 members of this circle discuss the report, and share their experiences.

 

View Don's Presentation: Rollator Features & How to Chose

 

 

Key topics in this discussion:

In the presentation above, Don S. covers a broad range of features that are important in choosing a rollator. The discussion includes the following:

  • What is a Rollator?
  • Key attributes, including size, wheel size, weight, brakes, brake handles, seat height, bags, folding size;
  • Examples of lots of different rollator styles;
  • All about brake type and what matters;
  • How to think about making the right selection for you.
  • The Q&A at the end includes opinions from various Longevity Explorers about their personal preferences in walkers and rollators.

 

 

Where to Learn More About Specific Products

Links above go either to Amazon, or to our internal listings database of "interesting and novel products" — from which you can reach the vendor's website. Here are some other options.

There are a number of specialty durable medical equipment stores, and they tend to be regional, so there may well be one near you. We don't have specific recommendations.

One place to get started, where you can read reviews and check out quite a selection of the more basic rollators and walkers is Amazon.

 

 

*Disclosure: If you use the links above when you buy products we write about, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate or other affiliate program participant. This does not affect the price you pay.

Beyond this, we have no financial interest in the products discussed here, and this article is not sponsored or supported in any way by any product vendor. See How we Fund our Work.

 

 

Reader Comments: "Best Rollator (Walker): Older Adults Explore"

 

from Shelley L (unverified) at November 13, 2019

I have a friend who is 6 foot tall. Which walker is suited for taller persons with need?

 

from Betty (unverified) at March 05, 2020

This topic is very timely--I just spent last Saturday at the medical supply store in San Diego. The sales person was very helpful. First you decide what you need. I have long legs and I have difficulty going from sitting to standing. the solution: get one with handles you can grasp to push yourself up --not the bars you use to push when walking. I chose the model for "Tall" because the "Medium" was too low making it too difficult to get to my feet. All accessories are usually priced separately. I decided to go with the Upright Walker because having forearm support relieves arthritic pain in my hands; forces me to walk w/o hunching over; and the brakes are more ergonomic. The uprights are more expensive, but since I will have to have one for a long time,I think it meets my needs better.

 

from Kildaren96 (member) at February 01, 2021

I' had been considering getting a rollator as my walking distance has diminished a great deal over time due to nerve damage in my legs caused by a back injury some time back.  As someone who had always been an active outdoor person, when I saw the Trionic Veloped All Terrain rollator on this site, I immediately checked it out.  Using HSA money that I still have, 6 years after retiring, I purchased the Tour Velopad and it will arrive on Thursday along with what I will call an adaptaive leash and wrist band so that I can use both hands on the rollator while walking my dog.  I'll give a full report once I've had and used it for awhile but I am so thankful to have found this site.  There are some cool things being produced for us elders that I wasn't aware of and if this rollator does all that it appears to do, I'll be able to go on our trails for more than the current 1/4 mile distance that I can manage with a cane. 

 

from Diane Nelson (unverified) at March 24, 2021

I inherited a rollator; when I pick it up to put it into my car, the two legs flop apart, creating problems. Is there a way to lock the legs together?

 

from Judith Kerman  (unverified) at March 25, 2021

My Nova Zoom came with a plastic thingie they call a Lock’n’Load. It’s patented, but the idea can be adopted. It’s basically a plastic wedge that clips onto the leg of the rollator. When you want to lock the legs together so they won’t flop, you push the wedge into the hinge. Bungee cords might work, too. I don’t see a way to add a photo, but check out nova joy.com, their parts list for the Zoom. You should be able to buy one, although the leg size might differ on your walker. No idea of cost. I do not work for them - I do have their very useful rollator with the 25” seat.

 

from Nanci Cartwright (unverified) at April 01, 2021

I did a full review of the Trionic Veloped elsewhere on this site. I probably should have put it here. In a nutshell, the Veloped has changed my life.

I now walk my dog with it for at least a mile a day on our paved trails where I live and I’m working up to longer distances. It goes up and down curbs easily and I’ve even learned how to approach a series of 8 low rise steps with wide landing areas to get up those in one fell swoop. (Here is my full review).

I live in the southwest so I had to add a product called Slime to one tire that was attacked by a goats head pricker but that works beautifully.

As a former hiker, laid low by a back issue that affects the nerves in my left leg, the Veloped has re-opened the outdoors for me. I’ve been able to go out on snowy days, no problem. I get a lot of questions about the Veloped from others who I meet on the trails. It’s a very cool looking rollator and exceptionally well made. The bicycle brakes allow you to go downhill, gently applying pressure, no fear of going too fast.

I bought a sturdy dog walker’s wrist band to apply my dog’s leash to, and although I first kept him attached to my wrist, moved the band to around the front of the rollator which allows him to do his sniffing on either side He knows the command “don’t pull” but sometimes going uphill, I don’t give him the command if he pulls, smile.

I love the Trionic Veloped. It may cost more than many rollators but it also goes where no rollator will go. I bought the Tour version because it has a larger and more supportive seat should I need it or want it for outdoor concerts one day. However, I haven’t had the need to use it yet. I also bought the 14” wheel version (my height/weight qualified me for either the 12” or 14” wheels) because the larger wheels give me more flexibility if I take it out on more rugged trails in the future If you have HSA money saved from when you worked, it covers the cost. I had HSA money available and my HSA card immediately accepted the charge.

Oshin at Trionic USA in CA was very helpful and I ordered my Veloped from them. It’s a very classy rollator that would be as useful on city streets or in malls or anywhere you want to go; not just on trails.

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Topic(s): 
Key words: 
Walker, walkers, rollator, rolling walker

Last Updated: April 06, 2021.