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Choosing a wheelchair for the elderly

Fri Jun 04 2021

Acknowledging and accepting you need a wheelchair can be incredibly tough. Reaching that time in your life can bring so many questions and worries.

So, when you’re faced with the task of having to actually choose a wheelchair, the decision can be daunting.

To help, we’ve outlined the key points to consider to make sure the model you pick fits you and your lifestyle.

Because, although right now it can all feel overwhelming, it’s important to know that the right wheelchair can change your life. It can give you the freedom to carry on your everyday, it can keep you sociable and it can open up the world again.


First and foremost, you’ll want the chair to be comfortable.

This means making sure the wheelchair is the right fit for you, specifically in terms of weight, width and height. It’s worth seeking out a wheelchair with adjustable features for optimum comfort. Arm rests, footrests, backrests, seats and wheels can all be tailored to you.

Going to try out the options is recommended as you’ll get more of a sense of what suits you best. And at our industry leading Chessington showroom that’s exactly what you can do. Remove the guesswork by choosing from a huge range of models. Receive expert advice from our friendly team of specialists who are on hand to offer assessments.

But we also know it’s not always possible to visit in-person. If that’s the case for you, we offer home demonstrations and virtual assessments to match you with the right product.


To avoid back pain, neck pain and help with posture, it’s vital the wheelchair is supportive. The seat, backrest, cushion, footrests and armrests all contribute to the overall support provided; if each are fitted to your size they will offer key postural support.

The size, angle and material of the seat, plus whether it’s solid or slung, are all features to think about when deciding what’s most supportive. The surface must be level with no breaks on which the skin could be caught.

When it comes to the backrest, think about the amount of padding or cushioning you’d prefer. As most standard manual wheelchairs have minimal padding and cushioning, if you experience any back issues or will be spending longer in the chair, we recommend tension adjustable backrests as these can be made to fit the contour of your back, providing increased comfort and support.

If you’re looking into powerchairs, these can come with a whole range of different backrests. For all types of wheelchairs, it’s also important you consider the angle and height of the backrest to make sure it meets your needs.

Footrests and armrests help you maintain a comfortable posture and relieve pressure, so make sure you’re happy with their height.

Cushions help maintain pelvic position, stop sliding and relieve pressure. If you’re unable to shift your weight or move position independently, pressure-cushions are vital to protect against pressure ulcers. You may choose to go with a tilt in space wheelchair as they’re designed specifically for extended use to provide postural support and pressure relief.

Ease of use

When choosing a wheelchair, take note of how easy it is to use. Whether that be how easy it is for you or another to push and lift, how quickly it can be collapsed if it’s foldable or how simply it can be adjusted.

Product specialists can take you through how to use the wheelchair either in store or at a home demonstration, so you can be confident the model is the one for you.


Weight is a key consideration when it comes to choosing a wheelchair. That’s the weight of both you and the wheelchair itself. Wheelchairs have different user weight capacities, so be sure to check when choosing.

Consider who’ll be manoeuvring the wheelchair to decide the best weight to go with. The person’s strength will help determine whether you opt for a more lightweight wheelchair.


How mobile you are will help determine whether you’re best going with a manual wheelchair, a powerchair or a mobility scooter.

Manual wheelchairs can come as transit, self-propelled or active.

If you’ll always be pushed by another and travelling on smooth surfaces, a transit may be right for you.

If you’ll be travelling short distances independently, self-propelled may be the best choice.

If you’ll be travelling long distances independently and want to self-propel, an active wheelchair is specifically designed with this in mind.

Powerchairs are an option for those wanting that same independence both indoors and outdoors, but without having to rely on self-propelling.

If it’s only outdoors you’ll be travelling, mobility scooters are equipped with the durability and comfort to excel outside.

Of course, this is just a very simple outline of the core differences. You can find all the details you need in our buyer guides:


Do you need to take your wheelchair in a car?

Both manual and powerchairs come in foldable models that are lightweight and fit in the boot of most cars.

If you’re going with a manual wheelchair and have a smaller car, look into getting a model with quick release wheels. These simply pop off without the need for tools to reduce the wheelchair size in an instant.

When it comes to scooters, foldable models are available but they can’t be taken apart. Boot scooters on the other hand can be easily dismantled into small parts to fit into the back of your car. Each part is liftable, usually weighing at around 15kg (2.3 stone) each.

If you cannot or would prefer not to have to lift your chair or scooter, the alternative option for transportation is adapting your car. Hoists can be used in standard cars or you could opt for a specialist wheelchair adapted vehicle; low floor and ramps mean you can drive your chair straight in.

If you plan on using public transport, check accessibility such as size restrictions or step-free stations. Travel with confidence by taking a look at the key tips, information and advice we’ve put together on taking public transport.

Making sure you get the wheelchair that’s right for you depends on so much.

And at this point you may be left with more questions than set answers. That’s why we recommend talking to a specialist.

Chatting with our team either over the phone or in our Chessington showroom will give you the chance to go through your specific requirements, that way they can help you reach the decision that’s right for you.