Whether you are choosing a wheelchair for yourself or an elderly member of your family, it’s always going to be a big decision! There are many different types of wheelchairs on the market and just as many variations in the needs of wheelchair users. It is important to carefully consider what your needs are and how different chair models can satisfy them.
Depending on the lifestyle and mobility of the wheelchair user, getting into a new chair can either greatly improve their lives, or just serve as a cumbersome piece of machinery for them and their family to haul around.
Today we are breaking down the different types of wheelchairs available for seniors, as well as the things you should take into consideration before investing in a wheelchair.
Types of Wheelchairs Available for the Elderly
Not all seniors have the same needs. Some people may be looking for a permanent, everyday mobility solution, while others might just need a wheelchair for short-term use or to aid in mobility on long days out of the house.
Electric or motor-powered wheelchairs are ideal for elderly people with limited upper body mobility who require more independence. These wheelchairs are great for getting around the house or going around town. They are typically quite heavy and often need to be transported by van.
There are many types of manual wheelchairs that are suitable for the elderly. Manual wheelchairs either need to be pushed from behind or moved by the chair user by pushing the handles on the wheels. These types of wheelchairs can be ideal for both extremely independent users and users who are under constant care by a nurse or loved one. There are a lot of different types of manual chairs, and it is important to make sure you think about which one is right for you before making a purchase.
Heavy Duty Wheelchairs
Heavy duty wheelchairs are ideal for larger elderly people. These wheelchairs are designed to accommodate taller or wider adults who need mobility assistance. Because they can accommodate heavier people, the chairs tend to be heavier as well. This can sometimes make heavy duty wheelchairs more difficult to transport in a vehicle.
Most heavy duty chairs are adjustable and built with anti-tip features.
Lightweight wheelchairs for the elderly are designed to fold-up and move easily. They have a lighter frame and can typically fit in the trunk of a car, making them far easier to transport than electric or heavy duty wheelchairs. The Merit Glacier is an example of a lightweight, foldable chair that is both affordable and versatile.
Ultralight wheelchairs can weigh as little as ten pounds. They are not as rugged as the chairs mentioned above and usually cannot accommodate heavier users. However, ultralight wheelchairs are ideal for travel and transport and can easily be folded and lifted by a caregiver. An ultralight chair may be a great fit for elderly people who have a variety of caregivers with different strength levels.
There are many reclining chairs on the market, including ones in a variety of different sizes and weights. Reclining chairs are great for seniors who may need to receive medical treatments in their chairs, those who suffer from sores, or those who simply need to be resting at different angles for comfort.
Not all elderly people need to have a wheelchair. Many modern walkers and rollators come equipped with a chair so the user can stop and take a rest. The mobility support from a walker combined with an optional chair to use when stationary may be sufficient for many elderly people who don't feel comfortable using a chair just yet.
We also recently published a blog post on the best narrow walkers for small spaces. Check it out!
Important Features to Consider When Choosing the Best Wheelchair for an Elderly Person
Because wheelchairs come with many different features and prices tags, there are a lot of things to consider when purchasing one for a senior. For example, the Drive Silver Sport II from Scootaround comes in three different widths and has multiple options for leg rests and arms, which can affect the price of the chair. Let’s break down some of the common features you need to consider before making a purchase.
When purchasing a wheelchair, you need to consider both the weight of the user and the weight of the chair. Heavier seniors will require heavy duty chairs that are tip resistant and built to carry larger people. Also, consider who may need to lift the chair. If an elderly person is caring for their spouse, you may want to consider purchasing an extremely lightweight chair that can be easily folded and put it in a vehicle.
Wheelchairs come in a variety of widths. A wider wheelchair can often provide more comfort for seniors, which is a plus. However, you’ll want to measure the door frames in your home and the width of your vehicle’s trunk before purchasing a wide wheelchair.
There are a number of things that can affect the comfort of a wheelchair. One major factor can be the leg and armrest options on the chair. For example, this Blue Streak Wheelchair has arms that flip back so the user can easily roll up to their desk. You might also consider chairs that have more padding or are adjustable for taller or shorter people.
Mobility and Independence of the User
Some seniors may prefer electric wheelchairs if they have limited mobility or do not have a caregiver present to help them maneuver around. For others, an electric wheelchair may be too pricey or seem too complex. In these cases, a manual chair will probably suit them better.
Some electric wheelchairs and heavy duty manual chairs may need to be transported by van. Depending on the situation of the elderly person, this may not be a problem. However, other families may need more flexibility and will need a wheelchair they can easily fold, lift, and transport themselves.
Learn some essential tips for transporting your wheelchair, scooter or other mobility device.
Wheelchairs can range from one hundred dollars to thousands of dollars or more. Not everyone has the budget or need for an expensive wheelchair. Be sure to research all your options beforehand – it’s always a good idea to balance quality and cost when making your choice!
Which Wheelchairs Are Best for Seniors?
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when choosing the best wheelchair for an elderly person. Be sure to consider the needs of both the chair user and the caregivers, as well as the features of the chair that you feel are most essential. It’s also important to be realistic about where and when the chair is needed.
If the chair is just being used occasionally, you may not need a lot of additional features. However, if an elderly person will be spending a lot of time in their wheelchair, you’ll need to make sure that they are comfortable and mobile. A chair like the Cruise III Lightweight Wheelchair is a good example of a high quality, easy to maintain chair that has flexible arm and footrests and is lightweight enough for easy transport. You can find it and other options online at shop.scootaround.com!
Cory Lee is a wheelchair user, travel addict, and accessible travel writer. On his blog, Curb Free with Cory Lee, he hopes to inspire others to roll out of their comfort zones and see all the beauty our world has to offer.