Choosing the best furniture for seniors is more important than most people realize. Safety is crucial, but comfort, convenience, and accessibility are also vital. And since furniture can be expensive, you'll want to choose the best senior furniture that will serve their needs and your budget.
We get accustomed to our surroundings, especially our favorite chairs, which are often well-worn furniture pieces. Over time, though, cushions begin to sag, structural integrity weakens, and we adjust our technique for getting on and off chairs and sofas without realizing it's happening.
This can set anyone up for difficult transfers, unsafe situations, and potentially a fall or other injury. But by carefully selecting furniture for senior living that prioritizes safety and function and recognizing when furniture should be replaced or modified, we can create a living environment that promotes well-being and quality of life for older adults.
1. Senior-Friendly Furniture Safety and Accessibility Factors
Safety is crucial for senior-friendly furniture, as older adults may have limited mobility or balance issues. Furniture with sturdy construction, proper support, and good design can help prevent falls and other accidents.
Furniture for Seniors Design Detail
One general consideration is to choose furniture with rounded corners and edges. Falls frequently occur immediately or soon after a senior stands up from a chair as they get their balance. If they were to fall back into or against the chair, injury risk is lessened with smoother furniture features.
Another significant consideration with any seat is whether it's easy to transfer into and out of. Let's take a look at four chair details that determine how difficult it will be to get up and down.
Best Chair Height for Seniors
Regarding furniture for older adults, I am often asked, 'What is the best seat height for seniors?' As with many things, there's no right or wrong, but rather a range that could work for any specific situation.
Ease of transfer into and out of the chair is a critical consideration. This is especially true for those with mobility issues and strength, balance, and endurance limitations.
Pay close attention to the height of the seat when selecting furniture. A sitting surface that's too low will be more challenging to get up from, and one that's too high may leave legs dangling and overall body posture compromised.
The average chair height from floor to seat is about 18 inches. If someone is quite tall, they may need a higher seat, while someone of short stature may prefer a chair that's an inch or two shorter.
A simple way to increase chair height is to add a seat cushion. Here are several other easy ways to add height to a chair so you can modify furniture you already have.
A wide seat with a lot of extra space between someone's hips and the armrests can also make standing up from the chair more difficult. You'll want to find a comfortable seat width, but pass on oversized chairs that are closer to the size of a loveseat or could fit one and a half people.
One feature to look for is sturdy armrests at a comfortable height. Armrests are a must for anyone who struggles with mobility. They provide something stable to hold onto and provide extra support.
Armrests make it easier to lower down into the chair from a standing upright position, but even more importantly, they make it easier to get up from a seated position. For this reason, armrests extending the seat's full length instead of stopping partway provide better support for transfers.
The most comfortable armrest height is frequently slightly lower towards the back of the seat and slightly higher towards the front. Generally, padded armrests are most comfortable, but avoid excessively padded ones as they may not provide sufficient support.
One of my clients had an unusual fall while trying to get out of her ultra-plush reclining chair. She pressed down on the overstuffed, wide armrests, accidentally applying pressure beyond the chair's wooden frame. Due to the lack of support where she placed her hands, her arm slid down the side of the chair, resulting in her falling onto the floor.
Most people prefer a rounded armrest to a squared-off one for wooden armrests, typical with dining chairs. Lastly, choose an armrest that's narrow enough to grip comfortably.
Seat depth is also an essential factor to consider. Deep seats are more challenging to get out of and usually don't provide good back support. If someone has difficulty moving, sliding toward the front of a chair before even trying to stand up will make matters worse. Additionally, scooting movements are often uncomfortable for those with back discomfort.
On the other hand, a seat that's too short is usually uncomfortable since the thighs aren't adequately supported. It may be less noticeable for short periods of sitting, but it will become more problematic if this is someone's primary chair where they sit for long periods.
So, the sweet spot is to find a chair depth that gives enough back support, and the chair edge ends about two inches before the back of the knee when sitting with the knees at a 90-degree angle. Luckily, many seating options are available, so finding a good fit is possible but may take some time and research.
Chairs with Wheels and Swivel Mechanisms
Wheeled chairs for seniors are generally not recommended since they lack the stability most older adults need. There are some situations where a chair with wheels is helpful, but that's in a case-by-case situation upon the recommendation of a physical or occupational therapist who understands the individual's unique needs and home environment.
I'm frequently asked, 'Are swivel chairs good for elderly individuals?' The same applies to seats that swivel due to a lack of chair stability. Since they require more coordination and balance to use safely, it's generally best to avoid them when choosing furniture for seniors.
2. Supportive and Comfortable Furniture for Seniors
Comfort is another crucial factor, as older adults may spend significant time sitting in their favorite seats. Ergonomically designed furniture with adequate cushioning and lumbar support can alleviate discomfort and promote better posture.
The trick is to combine comfortable chairs for seniors which also provide good stability and support. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Furniture should be sized according to the body shape and size of the person or persons who will use it most. I’ve seen families purchase plush recliners as gifts for petite grandmas only to discover their feet don’t touch the floor and end up being swallowed up by the giant chair.
- Built-in lumbar support is a great feature to support the spine and encourage better posture. You can also add this later with a support pillow or backrest.
- Medium-density foam works for most people, providing enough firmness while reducing pressure points. As furniture gets worn, be aware of areas with too much pressure that could result in skin breakdown, especially for high-risk individuals.
3. Functional and Practical Senior-Friendly Furniture Features
Lastly, convenient design should also be vital when choosing the most functional and practical furniture pieces. Select sturdy but lightweight furniture that can be moved easily.
Choose surfaces that are easy to clean, such as cushions with slipcovers or stain-resistant fabrics. Flexible furniture that can be used for multiple purposes, especially in small living spaces, is beneficial.
Furniture contrasting with carpet and walls will make it easier for older adults to see where one object stops and another begins as eyesight declines with age.
Final Thoughts and a Bonus Tip
As you can see, furniture recommendations for seniors are not one size fits all. But these guidelines will help you look at basic furniture details that will likely make a significant difference in promoting independence and quality of life. If you'd like assistance in choosing the best senior-friendly furniture options for your needs, book a consultation call for personalized recommendations.
BONUS TIP: If you're selecting furniture for aging in place, be sure to carefully assess and measure the floor space where you'll place the furniture. Ensure ample area for accessibility and future needs including space for assistive devices such as walkers and wheelchairs to maneuver. Also, remember to factor additional space for pieces that recline.