Consumer Guide to Lift Chairs

Published by Steve Hedberg on April 13, 2010 Under lift chairs

When trying to improve accessibility for the elderly, there are many factors that must be considered, which largely relate to the seniors specific abilities and medical conditions. However, one problem faced by many elderly people is being able to safely and easily stand and sit. This is a problem that can be faced anywhere, including getting out of a car or when eating at a restaurant, but in many cases, getting into and out of their favorite reclining chair poses the biggest problem.

One of the reasons that a seniors own recliner can pose the biggest hurdle when it comes to standing and sitting is that the senior will often have been sitting in it much longer than other types of chairs, often for hours on end with little movement. This can make it especially difficult to stand and site for seniors with arthritis, as often periods of inactivity will cause the joints to stiffen and movements to become much more painful.

To help address these issues, many seniors rely on lift chairs to help improve accessibility in their home.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Lift Chair?
  2. Types of Lift Chairs
  3. Special Types of Lift Chairs
  4. Finding the Right Lift Chair

What is a Lift Chair?

If you were to look in the living room of a senior that owned a lift chair, you might not even be able to tell that it was not a regular recliner or perhaps might think that it was a high end electric powered recliner, like those offered by Lazy-Boy. This is because most lift chairs are designed to look and function like standard recliners, including having a reclining backrest and extending footrest, which are both controlled electronically.

However, a lift chair is not just another comfortable place to sit and also offers a way of making it easier for the senior to stand and sit. This occurs, because once activated, an electric motor in the base of the lift chair causes the entire chair, and by extension occupant, to be raised slowly upwards. Once it has fully risen, the lift chair can be exited safely, with the senior being easily able to transfer to a standing position.

Of course, it should be noted that lift chairs are designed with several safety features that prevent the senior from simply being ejected from the seat. For instance, even when the lift chair is fully raised, the angle of the seat is such that the user can remain seated comfortably, without the fear of falling out. Also, simply pushing the button of the lift chair’s hand control once will not cause the chair to rise. Instead, they use a constant pressure switch, which means the device will only rise as long as someone is pushing the button. This way, if you accidentally sit on the remote or otherwise push the button, there is no fear that the chair will rise on its own.

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Types of Lift Chairs

Often referred to as lift recliners, there are several types of lift chairs, but they can basically be classified by the degree of which the backrest can recline.

In a Two Position Lift Recliner, which is the least expensive type, the backrest only reclines about 45 degrees. Often these types of lift chairs are called TV Recliners or the position is referred to as the TV Recline Position, as it is great for watching television or reading a book. However, they do not recline all the way, so a Two Position Lift Chair is not always the best choice for sleeping.

A Three Position Lift Recliner is, however, able to recline fully, so they are often a better choice. The backrest can recline to a nearly horizontal position, so it is a great chair if you want to be able to not just watch television, but also take a comfortable nap.

Infinite Position Lift Recliners are able to recline only a little further than a three position lift chair, but the main difference is in how the backrest and footrest work. In other types of lift chairs, the footrest and backrest are controlled as one. That is to say, when you push the button to recline the chair, the footrest extends and then the backrest goes down. However, in an infinite position lift chair, the backrest and footrest can be controlled separately, making it much easier to find a comfortably position.

**A Quick Word About the Number of Positions** If you are not familiar with lift recliners, it might sound like a lift chair can only recline to a few different positions, but this is not the case. Instead, they are only limited by how far the lift chair can recline and the backrest can be stopped at any point until they reach this limit. So, a two position lift chair is not just capable of only two positions. This is one reason where having an electrically controlled recliner can be a big benefit.

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Special Types of Lift Chairs

There are several special types of lift chairs, which are designed to address a specific condition, be more comfortable or useful, or provide improved functionality.

The Bariatric Lift Chair is one of the most common and is able to support much more weight than a standard lift chair. Typically, lift recliners support around 300 pounds, but it is not uncommon for a bariatric lift chair to support over 500 pounds. They utilize dual electric motors, as well as having a much wider and deeper seat than other types of lift chairs.

Another specialty lift chair is the Wall Hugger. Typically, a lift chair must be placed about 18 to 24 inches from the wall in order to completely recline, but a Wall Hugger Lift Chair, can be placed much closer to the wall, while still being able to recline. These chairs are often three position and can be great for areas of limited space.

There are also a number of chairs that include extras, such as special arm rest compartments, folding food trays, heat, massage, and even special mattress covers, which can make the chair much more functional and comfortable.

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Finding the Right Lift Chair

With the many different lift chair manufactures and models, finding the right lift chair can feel a little overwhelming. However, it does not need to be, especially if you spend some time researching the devices first.

**One word of caution though: most salesman that sell lift chairs, like many other industries, are basically commission based sharks, so it is a good idea to hold off on talking to a lift chair salesman or even buy a lift chair online. This helps to avoid the high pressure sales pitch you will face on the phone and by learning about lift chairs before you call, you will be better armed against the sharks.**

The first step to finding the right lift chair, is determining the physical characteristics of the senior and their needs. To start with, make sure you know the weight and height of the person who will be using the lift chair. The height is incredibly important, because the lift chair is designed to work with only a certain range of heights and if you do not fall into this range, the lift chair will rise to an unsafe height.

Understanding the dimensions of the lift chair is important as well, as this will determine how it fits the senior. It is a good idea to measure the seat depth, seat width, and seat height of your existing recliner, so you can compare these measurements to those of the lift chair. You can check out our Lift Chair Measurement Guide to learn more about how lift chair measurements work.

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