Types of Chair
There are several important categories of armchair for elderly people and those with disabilities. High back chairs, for example, provide good support for the upper body and may also be fitted with wings to support the shoulders, neck and head. They will typically have high-sided armrests for security and they promote a comfortable, healthy, upright posture.
For those with limited strength, stiff joints or conditions such as arthritis - any one of which can make it difficult to use ordinary seating without assistance - there is a wide range of manual riser chairs, which have a lever-operated tilting mechanism that makes it easier to stand up and sit down. For those who suffer similar restrictions and who need more active assistance, there are motorised rise-and-recline chairs that are controlled by a simple handset and which lift and lower the user without the need for effort.
High dependency chairs will tend to have multiple adjustments and generous padding to support those whose movements may not be fully coordinated. Usually mounted on a manoeuvrable mobile base, these chairs should also have comfortable footrests and cushioned wings at the side. Moreover, if the user is likely to spend prolonged periods in a chair, there may also be an increased risk of developing pressure sores, so the cushioning should be capable of good weight distribution.
In many cases, the choice of fabric may simply be a matter of choosing the colour and surface texture that best suits the decor of the user's home. However there are some important practical considerations that customers should also bear in mind.
- Durability - a favourite chair may have to withstand many years of regular use so it is important that the fabric is strong and hardwearing so that it will withstand the wear and tear of daily use.
- Hygiene - look for a material that is easy to wipe clean and that will withstand spills. Waterproof fabric such as polyurethane and vinyl may be best if there is a risk of spilled drinks or food. Some microfibre fabrics are also resistant to liquids and staining and have the advantage of feeling softer and warmer to the touch.
- Breathability - a vapour permeable fabric will help to prevent perspiration from accumulating and causing the user to feel damp , hot and uncomfortable.
Features to Consider
Removable arms - to facilitate side transfers.
Infill panels under the arms - to exclude draughts and retain heat.
Angled seat - a slight forward tilt on static chairs can make it easier for the user to rise.
Wheels - having the chair set on wheels or a mobile base makes it possible to relocate the user without their having to stand or make a transfer.
Chair raisers - a higher seat often makes it easier to stand and sit down so, rather than buying a new chair, consider an inexpensive set of chair raisers - simple blocks that fit under the chair legs.
Seat raisers - an alternative to raising the whole chair is to raise the seat with a simple cushion or a lifting seat. However, this will tent to raise the seat nearer to the top of the chair's arms so check that this does not make the seat unstable or unsafe.