By: Editorial Team | Posted: June 10, 2015 | Updated: April 7, 2023
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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 (Scroll immediately below)
- What is a Rollator and Who Needs One?
- Different Rollators for Different Life Situations (At Home; Out and About; Posture; Stylish; Parkinson’s)
- How Do I Choose a Rollator? What Matters?
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?
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”.
- 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.
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.
- See three wheel rollators on Amazon. [affiliate link]*
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.
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.
- View “foldable” rollators on Amazon [affiliate link]*
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.
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.
UPDATE Sept. 2022: Unfortunately this product is no longer available.
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:
- U-Step Walker for neurological conditions [link goes to our database where you can learn more]
Other Intriguing Mobility-Tech Options
In researching this topic, we found several other intriguing “mobility tech” options.
- 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.
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.
- Visit Amazon’s page: Rollators & Walkers [affiliate link]*
*Disclosure: The research and opinions in this article are those of the author, and may or may not reflect the official views of Tech-enhanced Life.
If you use the links on this website 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. We use the (modest) income to help fund our research.
In some cases, when we evaluate products and services, we ask the vendor to loan us the products we review (so we don’t need to buy them). Beyond the above, Tech-enhanced Life has no financial interest in any products or services discussed here, and this article is not sponsored by the vendor or any third party. See How we Fund our Work.