From back pack to flexibility and mobility issues, a wide range of physical issues can worsen as we grow older. Sitting down and getting up from an armchair – a task that seems easy to most people – can often be difficult for many elderly people.
If you’re shopping for furniture for a senior citizen, it’s important to make comfort and support higher priorities than fashion. A supportive back or soft seat might not be your biggest needs in a chair, but they can be a huge help for older people.
From fabric to the chair’s level of support, a wide range of factors go into making a chair suitable for the elderly. In this guide, we’ll share six tips and recommendations to help you buy the most supportive chair for your parents or grandparents.
MOTORISED RISE AND RECLINING CHAIRS MAKE STANDING UP EASIER
Getting up from a chair might be simple when you’re young and agile, but as people age their declining upper body strength and flexibility can make standing up from a recliner or armchair difficult.
Standing up from a seated position not only involves your legs – it also requires you to push down on the armrests of the chair using your arms and shoulders, which can be a problem for elderly people with limited upper body strength.
Motorised rise and reclining chairs offer all of the comfort of a recliner with a built-in rising mechanism that makes standing up easier. As well as reclining back, these chairs can rise upwards to ease their occupant into a standing position.
Since rise and reclining chairs look just like a typical recliner, they’re a great choice for offering elderly people extra mobility with a chair that’s still stylish, fashionable and great looking in any living room.
HIGH BACK CHAIRS PROVIDE BETTER SHOULDER AND BACK SUPPORT
The lower your chair’s back, the lower its level of back support. Back injuries are far more common in the elderly than in young people, making it important that chairs for elderly people offer a high degree of back support.
High back chairs, particularly chairs with backs that extend all the way to the neck, are ideal for elderly people with back pain and posture issues. Because they extend so far up the back, the level of support they offer is extremely high.
This means that even when someone relaxes in the chair, the high back of the chair holds their back in a neutral, natural position and prevents excess force from being places on their spine.
The end result is greater comfort, fewer back injuries and vastly improved health for elderly people with back issues. As high back chairs also keep people upright while seated, they’re also easier to get in and out of than chairs with a low back.
AVOID WOODEN, PLASTIC OR METAL CHAIRS WITH HARD SEATS
Due to decreased levels of muscle mass, particularly in the back and buttocks, many elderly people develop bedsores (also known as pressure sores) when they sit for a long period of time on a firm mattress or chair.
Chairs with a wooden, plastic or metal bottom offer a very limited level of support and comfort, making them more likely to lead to bedsores for elderly people that spend a lot of time sitting down in them.
Avoid chairs with firm seats and focus on chairs with built-in cushions that provide a reasonable level of comfort. Your living room and dining room chairs don’t need to be amazingly soft, just soft enough to evenly distribute pressure while seated.
IMPROVE EXISTING CHAIRS WITH A PRESSURE REDUCING CUSHION
If you already have wooden chairs – for example, a wooden dining room set – and can’t afford to purchase an entire replacement set, you can use pressure reducing cushions to make your existing chairs more suitable for the elderly.
Pressure reducing cushions (also called pressure relief cushions) are made using high density foam, which cushions the tailbone and prevents a person’s body mass from concentrating on one point.
One of the biggest advantages of using a pressure reducing cushion is that it can be transferred from one chair to another, providing support for elderly people in any chair in your home.
BAD VISION? CHOOSE A CHAIR WITH COLOURFUL UPHOLSTERY
One important health and safety factor that many people forget about when they shop for the elderly is visibility. Vision deteriorates with age, making it important that you choose a chair that’s not just comfortable, but also easy to see.
Black and brown leather chairs can blend in with wooden floors, making it hard for elderly people with poor vision to see them. Likewise, light chairs can look invisible against a white tiled floor or white wall.
If you’re shopping for a chair for someone with poor eyesight, choose a bright colour upholstery option – colours such as green, red and blue, which are easy to see in any setting are ideal – so that visibility is never an issue.
AVOID ARMLESS CHAIRS, AS THEY’RE DIFFICULT TO GET OUT OF
Armless chairs and chairs with very low or small arms might look great beside your dining table, but they can be extremely difficult for elderly people with poor mobility to sit down in and stand up from.
When your quadriceps and posterior chain muscles are strong and agile, standing up from a chair doesn’t require as much upper body strength. With reduced lower body strength, however, standing up becomes a full body exercise.
Chairs with low or no arms force people to stand up entirely using their legs – a task that many elderly people can’t complete easily. This is particularly true of low chairs such as recliners, which place a person’s centre of gravity very close to the ground.
Avoid armless chairs and choose chairs with fixed or removable arms (these chairs allow people to seat themselves from the side of the chair) so that standing up isn’t an issue for elderly people with low leg and posterior chain strength.
Got an upgrade today! Went from a broken PC chair without back support & arm rests to a completely new one which has both :D!— Ankh Heart (@AnkhHeart) 12 March 2015
IS YOUR LIVING OR DINING ROOM SUITABLE FOR THE ELDERLY?
Chairs that seem comfortable, supportive and easy to get into and out of for younger people can be health and safety hazards for the elderly. Even small factors such as a chair’s colour can have a huge impact on its suitability for elderly people.
Is your living or dining room suitable for the elderly? From a supportive seat to high arms that make standing up and sitting down easy, make sure your home has a great seating option for elderly people that may not have optimal mobility.