What Is The Difference Between A Rollator And A Walker?

difference between a rollator and a walker

difference between a rollator and a walker

Accepting the fact that you or your aging loved one can no longer walk without mobility aids is an emotional decision. More and more senior citizens want to stay in their own homes instead of nursing homes and assisted living communities, but old age comes with physical impairments. Conditions like breathing difficulties, arthritis, hip and back problems bring about mobility issues among the elderly. The feeling of despair when you realize that you need help to move around is hard to process. Many seniors feel like they are giving up their independence. What they don’t know is that these walking aids actually help them maintain a degree of independence as they won’t have to rely on loved ones or caregivers to move them from one point to another.

What’s The Difference Between A Rollator and a Walker?

There are different mobility devices currently on the market that can help you with mobility. Walkers and rollators represent two of the most used walking aids in America. Both have been around for some years now. They have helped millions of seniors looking to maintain an independent lifestyle but still need a little help moving around. Healthcare professionals usually recommend walking aids based on an individual patient’s needs.

There is one small problem: many people don’t know the difference between the two. People often confuse between the two because at a glance they’re similar. Some websites even classify rollators as wheeled walkers since they’re both mobility aids with an almost same build and use.

Whether you have mobility issues or undergoing rehabilitation, this article will break down the differences between the standard walker and the more advanced rollator. To help you understand the dissimilarity, we’ll highlight why and when both aids are needed. This way, you will have an easier time deciding on the best walking aid for you or your aging loved one.

Things to consider when choosing the right mobility aid for you:

  • Your physical status and future physical changes.
  • Where you plan to use the mobility aid (Purpose of usage).
  • Availability of supervision/assistance.
  • Comfort level.
  • The activities you participate in most.
  • Your budget.


A walker is a lightweight and straightforward hand-held frame with legs that can be used to help seniors move around on their own in narrow spaces safely and securely. Typically smaller than rollators, walkers are particularly helpful to seniors who are still able to walk but can’t bear weight on one or both legs. They stand at waist height and allow you to take some of your weight off your legs while walking. To use a walker, you need to lift it, move forward, and set it down again with each step. You can lean on a walker for rest, support or balance.

To make them lightweight to be easily picked up and moved, walkers are built with Aluminum supports. Walkers also feature comfort grips on the side rails made of rubber, gel or form to make them comfortable to hold. The legs have rubber tips that prevent slipping, ultimately improving stability. The rubber tips should be checked for wear and replaced to provide users with better traction.

If you have recently undergone a hip replacement, your physical therapist might advise you to use a walker for the first few weeks through recovery. A walker is designed to be stable enough to handle even weighty users.

Walkers can either be folding or unfolding, and some are available in 2-wheel versions while the others are stable walkers. Walkers with front wheels are designed to help seniors with no strength to lift them off the ground when walking. Folding walkers can be easily folded for transport or storage. The 2-button system means that you just need to push in the buttons for the walker to collapse so it can easily fit in a bus, car or plane.

The height adjustment feature in walkers means that they can be adjusted to suit seniors of different heights. Walkers with this feature have a range of pins and buttons that can be used to adjust the height to one that fits you properly.

Another type of walkers is called Hemi walkers. These are meant for seniors with limited or no dexterity in one hand. They allow seniors to lean on just one side for extra support. Heavy duty walkers are designed to bariatric (overweight) seniors.

Use a walker if you or your aging loved one:

  1. Need to maneuver tight spaces.
  2. Can’t bear the weight of one or both of your legs.
  3. Are mobile enough such that you don’t need a wheelchair.
  4. No longer find a cane enough to provide you the support you need.


A rollator has a frame with 3 or 4 swivel wheels, a built-in padded seat and handlebars that feature hand-operated brakes. All the wheels should be in contact with the ground when moving around. Sometimes referred to as wheeled walkers, rollators are usually recommended for senior citizens who can walk but experience difficulty in stability and balance. If you find yourself tiring easily and continuously feel the need to rest, you should consider getting yourself a rollator.

Rollators are available in 3 and 4-wheel. 3-wheel rollators are shaped like tricycles and have tighter turning radius designed to maneuver narrow hallways and small apartments. Their easy-fold mechanism means that they are suitable for transport. 4-wheel rollators, on the other hand, have a seat and added stability best suited for tough terrain.

Some rollators have a basket option that you can use to carry groceries when you make a trip to the grocery store. When it comes to price, rollators generally cost more than walkers.

One key advantage that rollators have over walkers is that they can be fitted with essential accessories like oxygen tank holders, IV poles, cup holders, headlights to lighten up dark spaces and baskets for carrying personal effects. Even if it’s tempting, rollators should not be used in place of wheelchairs.

Use a rollator if you or your aging loved one:

  1. Needs assistance with balance.
  2. Can walk steadily but gets tired easily (need to sit often).
  3. Wants the option for 3 or 4 wheels.
  4. Wants a walking aid for both indoor and outdoor use.


It is vital to learn how to correctly and safely use mobility aids to make the most out of them. Failure to train properly can lead to what you are trying to avoid in the first place-falls and injury. Also, check whether funding is available in your area. There are many NGOs that help to subsidize the prices of walkers and rollators. Whether to buy a walker or a rollator is entirely up to you. Use the information above to choose an aid that best suits your budget and individual needs.

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