How to Choose the Right Walker for You
The walker is a misunderstood piece of equipment. Too often, people see walkers as signs of old age and decline.
The walker, however, is really a symbol of independence. They ensure users remain connected with their lives, allowing them mobility and support in the home, independent living facility, and out in public. Just as eyeglasses keep us part of the visual world, walkers allow us to be part of the social world.
And, just like glasses, you have several styles to choose from. Sometimes, of course, medical issues might dictate which walker to choose, but many people can choose from the full range. Here is some guidance for your choice of a walker.
Mobility and Balance
Walkers provide assistance getting around. They also provide support, preventing loss of balance and, therefore, lowering the risk of injury from falls which are the most frequent cause of injury to the elderly.
Regardless of the style of walker you choose, you want to make sure it fits you properly, ensuring mobility and balance. When you’re holding your walker, your arms should be comfortable. Your elbows should bend slightly, at 15 degrees or so. When not holding the walker, the hand grips should be even with your wrist.
Wheels or No Wheels
Walkers without wheels require lifting with each step. This lift may be impracticable for some people with lessened arm and back strength. Walkers with wheels also allow the user to move faster, but walkers without wheels are more most stable.
Some walkers have two wheels, always in the front. In most cases, the wheels are fixed—they do not swivel from side to side. These walkers are excellent for stability and will allow a fair amount of mobility, even if you walk on the lawn or other uneven surfaces.
Three- or Four-Wheel Walkers
Walkers with three or four wheels—or Rollators—provide great mobility. They allow access to all sorts of situations, and many fold up to allow easy transportation and ease of placing them out of the way when out to dine.
Many Rollators have brakes, providing maximum control while you’re out and about. Most also have built-in seats, which allow people to attend grandchildren’s soccer games and performances without worries about seating.
Choosing a Walker
The choice of walker should be the user’s, as much as possible. Medicare/Medicaid or insurance may cover the cost of some walkers, but that doesn’t mean the walker provided is the best one for you.
The traditional walker may suit many people, especially for those who do not go out often. They tend to provide the most support for both balance and weight, and they fold up to be out of the way around the dining table or living room.
Whether you fit a traditional walker with front wheels or not, you should use it whenever you walk about. Even though you may feel slowed down, you reduce your risk of falling by using it.
Three-wheeled walkers have one big advantage because they fit through narrower spaces. They can be fitted with baskets for carrying accessories. Three-wheeled walkers cannot, however, be fitted with seats.
Four-wheeled walkers may be best for many people. These Rollators do not need to be lifted, and they provide the balance and support people might be looking for.
Yet, Rollators need to be used with care. Because they are on wheels, they can get away from the user easily. Four-wheeled walkers are fitted with brakes, just like bicycles. When you get your walker, practice using it in safe environments before using it as an all-terrain walker.
One advantage of the four-wheeled Rollator is the ability to attach a seat. These Rollators have wheel-locks as well as brakes. The seat allows resting as you move around, and allows you to be in the front row, comfortably, at many events.
Rollators with seats are also the largest of the walker family, which limits where they can go. The seat may not be the right height for the table, and they tend to be heavier than traditional walkers.
Regardless of the type of walker you choose, you will want to accessorize it. A variety of accessories is available.
Because walkers require the use of both hands, you need to add the ability to carry things. Traditional walkers can easily be fitted with walker bags, and a range of colors and styles are available. Many bags have pockets for credit cards and identification.
Baskets and carrying bags can be added to Rollators, and many are quite stylish. They will be especially helpful when shopping.
Drink holders and food trays are other accessories you may want to add, based on your lifestyle. Having an extendable reaching aid, which can be attached to the walker, will increase your mobility.
You should choose a walker based on your way of life. More active people will likely focus on the four-wheel Rollator, especially when fully-accessorized. Folks who mainly stay at home, however, may be well-suited by a traditional walker.
- Becky McDowell