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Top Manual Wheelchairs for Seniors

Updated for December, 2021

How We Found the Best Manual Wheelchairs for Seniors
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Top Manual Wheelchairs for Seniors

Manual wheelchairs can be beneficial if you find yourself needing some help getting around. With age comes illnesses that can affect our ability to walk as well as we once did. Manual wheelchairs – which are moved by a person without the assistance of a battery or any other motorized mechanism – can offer you the ability to be mobile and stay independent for longer.

There are two basic types of manual wheelchairs – self-propelled and companion-propelled. Self-propelled requires the wheelchair user to move the chair with the use of their arms and legs, usually by pushing the arms forward as the hands grab the rims of the wheel. Companion-propelled means another person has to push the chair with the handles located on the back of the chair.

Manual wheelchairs are typically more cost-effective than other types of chairs. They are also generally easier to store and transport. Selecting the right chair is important, especially for first time users. Some people often choose a chair based on what insurance will pay for, but it’s important to consider style, weight and performance.

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If you have trouble walking, for any reason, then a manual wheelchair may be a good option to help keep you as mobile as possible. It can allow for freedoms and abilities you might not have without it. Its main purpose is to increase your mobility and maximize your comfort.

Self-propelled manual wheelchairs do require upper body strength to propel them forward and you will need to have the ability to be able to stand up, sit down and walk for short periods of time to get in and out of the chair.

Fortunately, manual wheelchairs are fairly portable. They are no longer as heavy and cumbersome as they once were. Most are made with steel, aluminum and titanium. Manual wheelchairs often have frames that fold making them easier to store and transport.

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When choosing a wheelchair, it’s important to consider comfort, as well as mobility. You don’t want a chair that will limit your body movement, cause pain or pressure sores, or be uncomfortable to sit in. So be sure the chair is the right size for you.

Before you buy a manual wheelchair, take measurements to ensure you get the proper fit. Take into consideration the seat width, seat height and seat depth. The most popular seat width is 18 inches, but to ensure it’s the proper fit for you, measure your backside from hip to hip and add two inches to allow for bulky or winter clothing.

One of the most common issues for wheelchair users can be the seat pinching the backs of their knees. To avoid this problem, measure the seat depth. If you can fit three or four fingers horizontally between the front edge of the seat and the back pit of the user’s knees, then the seat depth should be adequate.

To determine the seat height, measure from the user’s heel to the back pit of their knee and add two inches to make sure the foot rest is a proper amount off the floor. The average adult size is typically between 19.5 and 20.5 inches.

Don’t pick a chair that you feel squeezed into. Make sure you have enough space to move in the seat, rotate your upper body and move your arms. It’s important, if possible, to pick a chair that supports good posture, keeps your head, neck, and spine aligned, as well as your pelvis, hips and knees.

The good news is you don’t necessarily have to pay for your wheelchair by yourself. Medicare Part B covers manual wheelchairs as durable medical equipment (DME) if you have limited mobility. Your doctor will have to submit a written order stating you have a medical need for the wheelchair and you will have to meet the following guidelines according to Medicare:

  • You have a health condition that causes significant difficulty moving around in your home
  • You’re unable to perform daily living activities like bathing, dressing, getting in or out of a bed or chair, or using the bathroom, even with the help of a cane, crutch, or walker
  • You’re able to safely operate and get on and off the wheelchair or have someone with you who is always available to help you safely use the device
  • Your doctor who is treating you for the condition that requires a wheelchair and your supplier are both enrolled in Medicare
  • You can use the equipment within your home and it isn’t too big to fit through doorways
  • You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after you pay your Part B deductible for the year

Get help from home care professionals

Remove the stress of learning how to use new mobility equipment. Professional home care providers will keep you moving with ease. Find Caregivers