Choose a bespoke chair for a senior

Posted on , by Bruno DUVAL

When I visited EHPAD or other institutions welcoming the elderly, while working as a product manager, I often saw elderly residents slumped in their chairs with poor posture, leaning on pillows and leaning to one side or sliding forward from their seat. 

However, there are simple solutions so that a person, whose muscle tone is reduced, can sit well for comfort and to interact with his environment.

Evolution of sitting as you age

Sitting in a conventional chair, our muscles must work to keep us in a physiological posture. As we age, our muscles tend to weaken and get tired more quickly: we lean to one side or the other as we fall asleep, we slide forward or we sag in the chair.

When an elderly person slides towards the front of an armchair the risks are: 

  • to fall out of the chair 
  • poor circulation in relation to hamstrings due to hair shears and an increased risk of bedsores
  • poor posture for the spine that loses its natural S-shaped curvature

Below is the illustration of a senior sitting in an armchair that is too deep. The seat compresses the leg at the hollow poplity (1 and 2) hindering the venous return. The retroversion of the pelvis (3) removes the lumbar (4) and cervical (5) hollows.

Elderly person in an armchair too big
Senior in the chair

A senior who sits well on the other hand:

  • has a dignified attitude that values him 
  • feels safe
  • sits and rises more easily, which encourages autonomy and mobility 
  • recovers faster thanks to better traffic
  • is less at risk of bedsoring due to a better distribution of pressures

Below is the illustration of a senior with a physiological sitting posture. The seat does not compress the leg at the hollow poplity ( 4). The spine retains its natural shape in S (1 and 2). Pressureise is spread over a maximum area at the seat (3), avoiding over-pressures at the risk of bedsores at the ischion level.

Physiological seating for a senior in an armchair

What are the key features of an armchair suitable for a senior 

  • Seat height: knees should not be higher than the seat if the person is tall and feet should be laid flat on the floor if the person is small
  • the depth of the seat: the deepest possible to maximize the support surface and reduce the pressure at the seat, without the front of the seat pressing against the calf (so as not to hinder the venous return to the hollow poplity)
  • the width of the seat: not too narrow of course but too wide either, so that the armrests can be used as a stabilizer and help to get up
  • the tilt of the seat and the backrest: an angle of the seat of about 10 degrees allows the person to be properly wedged in the chair, without it being too difficult to get up; if the chair is installed around a table provide a lower angle of about 3 degrees and the person is at risk of bedsing a larger angle so that the upper body weight is supported by the backrest
  • lateral timing: a very effective solution is to position thin pads between the trunk and arms, under the armpits (they are adjustable in width and attached to the back); rounded head rest or ears will hold the head and avoid drafts in the neck
  • removable cushions; Avoid coated fabrics that are easy to wash but sweat on, as sweating weakens the tissues. there are polyurethane-coated fabrics waterproof, permeable to water vapour and elastic

Mistakes to avoid

  • the reclining back with a seat that does not recline, because you slide forward
  • the faux-leather cushions in which one sweats
  • the chair that fits too big
  • the chair that's too small

The ideal chair

Ear chair for the elderly

Ideally the chair is custom made from the measurements of the elderly person. 

The cushions are adapted to the risk of bedsores, evaluated by a doctor or therapist. If the risk is low, a High Resilience Bultex foam, with a lift and a fairly high density at the seat, will have a lasting effect. If the risk is medium to high, bespoke or air cushions should be considered.
The reclining of the chair is defined with therapists, depending on the person's activities or need for support. If necessary side cushions help sit the person.
The chair has a style that appeals to its r
esident. Accessories completes equipment based on activity: tablet, reader, wheels for travel