Types of Walkers
There are three basic types of walkers on the market today. To help you choose, consider the type of support you'll need. Then, pay a visit to a medical equipment store or pharmacy that sells walkers so you can test-walk a few (see Medicare.gov/SupplierDirectory). Here are the different types you will be able to choose from:Standard walker: This is the most basic style of walker. It has four legs with rubber-based feet (no wheels), is very lightweight (around 6 pounds) and costs between $50 and $100. This type of walker must be picked up and moved forward as you walk, so it's best suited for people who need significant weight bearing support or who are walking very short distances.Two-wheeled walker: This has the same four-leg style as the standard walker except it has wheels on the two front legs. This allows the walker to be easily pushed forward without lifting. The back legs glide across the floor providing support while you step forward. This type of walker works best for people with balance issues and is priced at around $60 to $120.Rollator: This is a rolling walker that has wheels on all four (or three) legs. This type of walker is best for people who need assistance with balance or endurance inside or outside the home. This walker does, however, require some upper body strength in order to prevent the walker from rolling out from under you. Rollators typically come with a built-in seat, basket and hand-breaks. For those with hand arthritis or gripping problems, there are rollators with pushdown brakes that engage with downward pressure and will lock when you are seated. Rollators typically cost between $75 and $225.
After deciding on a type of walker, there a few additional things you need to double-check to ensure it meets your needs. First, if you have a larger frame, make sure the walker's weight capacity will support you. If you choose a rollator, make sure to test the seat to ensure that you can comfortably fit between the handgrips. Always check the height of the walker to make sure that it is set appropriately for you. To do this, stand with your arms relaxed at your sides. The handgrips of the walker should line up with the crease on the inside of your wrist. You also will want to ensure that the walker folds easily for transport and storage and that it is light enough to lift into your car. Test the handgrips to make sure they are comfortable. Also, be sure you measure the doorways in your home to ensure your walker will fit through them. If you have narrow doorways consider installing "swing clear" offset door hinges. This would be a simple and affordable way to widen your doorways an extra two inches. Walkers also have numerous accessories that can be added for your convenience, such as—food tray attachments, tote bags for carrying personal items, oxygen tank holders and tennis ball walker glides that go over the feet of a standard walker to help the walker slide across floors. For more tips on how to choose and use a walker, visit Mayoclinic.com/health/walker/HA00060. It is also a smart idea to work with your doctor or a physical therapist, as Medicare will cover 80% of the cost if you receive a written prescription for a walker.Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.