A Guide to Choosing the Best Wheelchairs for Seniors

July 11, 2023

Mobility challenges are common as we age. Fortunately, the right mobility device can enhance independence and keep older adults as safe as possible. From canes to walkers to wheelchairs, the right mobility device can be life-changing for an older adult.

When it comes to ensuring the comfort, mobility, and independence of elderly individuals, selecting the right wheelchair is of paramount importance. With an array of options available on the market, finding the perfect wheelchair can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best wheelchairs for seniors, taking into account factors such as comfort, durability, maneuverability, and safety. Read on to discover the top contenders that prioritize the well-being and convenience of our beloved seniors.

Questions to Consider Before Choosing a Wheelchair

Choosing a wheelchair often begins with a visit with your primary care physician or physical therapist. While some people require a wheelchair after a fall or other medical crisis, others find themselves needing a wheelchair after using a walker or cane for many years. In all cases, working with a physician and therapist can ensure you understand why you need the wheelchair, and when you need to use it. This can help you begin your research for a wheelchair to suit your needs.

Why You Need a Wheelchair

You might discover that you only need a wheelchair for a short amount of time, perhaps while you recover from surgery or get stronger after a medical event. In this case, you might want to rent a wheelchair from a durable medical equipment supplier. If you will need a wheelchair permanently, you will want to find one you can purchase and perhaps even customize to meet your changing needs.

When You Need a Wheelchair

Not all wheelchair users need the device all the time. For example, you might only need a wheelchair when you are out of the house. Or, you might require a wheelchair as your main form of transportation while you are inside and outside of the home. This designation can help you determine how big your wheelchair should be, how easily you need it to fold up for storage, and what type of wheels might work best.

What Is My Future Prognosis

Finally, work with your physician to determine your future prognosis, especially if you are living with a neurological disorder like ALS or Parkinson’s disease. You might want a wheelchair that can change with your changing needs, including becoming motorized if needed in the future.

Features of Wheelchairs to Consider

Once you have spoken with your physician or physical therapist to get recommendations, you can begin to look at wheelchair options. Here are some features to consider, determining which ones are important to you and your situation:

  • Size: Some people might prefer an oversized or wider wheelchair for maximum comfort.
  • Weight: If you are planning on needing to tote your wheelchair around or store it often, getting a lighter-weight wheelchair might be your best bet.
  • Accessories: Certain accessories, like a footrest or carrying bag, might make life a bit easier for you or your caregivers.
  • Wheels: You might choose different wheel sizes depending on if you will be propelling the chair with your arms, if you will be wheeling outside most of the time or other factors.
  • Budget: A wheelchair is an investment, and while you should meet your budget, you shouldn’t skip out on certain models just because of cost.

Drive Medical SSP118FA-SF Silver Sport

best wheelchairs for seniors


The Drive Medical SSP118FA-SF Silver Sport 1 Folding Transport Wheelchair with Full Arms and Removable Swing-Away Footrest in Black is a versatile and convenient mobility solution for seniors. Its foldable design ensures easy storage and transportation, while the full arms provide added stability and support. The removable swing-away footrests offer easy access and smooth transfers, enhancing user comfort. The Drive Medical SSP118FA-SF Silver Sport 1 Folding Transport Wheelchair is an excellent choice for seniors seeking a reliable and user-friendly option that prioritizes their mobility and convenience. Shop Now

Medline Wheelchair with Flip-Back

best wheelchairs for seniors

The Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair with Flip-Back, Desk-Length Arms & Elevating Leg Rests in Black, featuring an 18-inch seat, offers exceptional comfort and convenience for individuals seeking a versatile mobility solution. Its lightweight construction ensures easy maneuverability, while the flip-back, desk-length arms allow for easy transfers and access to desks or tables. The elevating leg rests provide additional comfort and support, promoting proper leg circulation and reducing fatigue. The sleek black design adds a touch of style to the wheelchair, making it both functional and visually appealing. With its focus on user-friendly features and extra comfort, the Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair is an ideal choice for seniors seeking a reliable and accommodating mobility aid. Shop Now

Drive Medical Blue Streak Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair

best wheelchairs for seniors

The Drive Medical Blue Streak Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair with Flip-Back Arms & Swing-Away Footrests is another excellent choice for individuals seeking a highly portable and versatile mobility solution. This wheelchair’s lightweight design allows for easy maneuverability and transport, making it ideal for active individuals on the go. The flip-back arms provide flexibility and convenient access to desks or tables, while the swing-away footrests offer effortless transfers in and out of the wheelchair. With its durable construction and comfortable nylon upholstery, the Drive Medical Blue Streak wheelchair ensures a smooth and enjoyable ride. Whether for short trips or longer journeys, this wheelchair combines functionality and convenience, providing individuals with the freedom and mobility they desire. Shop Now

Frequently Asked Questions About Wheelchairs

What are the different types of wheelchairs?

There are several types of wheelchairs available, including manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, lightweight wheelchairs, sports wheelchairs, and pediatric wheelchairs. Manual wheelchairs require the user to manually propel themselves using their arms, while power wheelchairs are electrically powered and controlled by a joystick or other controls.

How do I choose the right wheelchair?

Choosing the right wheelchair depends on various factors such as the user’s mobility needs, lifestyle, physical abilities, and personal preferences. It’s important to consider factors like the type of wheelchair (manual or power), seat width and depth, weight capacity, portability, and additional features like cushioning, armrests, and leg rests. Consulting with a healthcare professional or occupational therapist can help determine the best fit for an individual’s specific needs.

How much do wheelchairs cost?

The cost of wheelchairs can vary significantly depending on the type, features, and brand. Manual wheelchairs generally range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, while power wheelchairs can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. It’s essential to consider factors like durability, warranty, maintenance, and potential insurance coverage when evaluating the overall cost.

Are wheelchairs covered by insurance?

In many cases, wheelchairs may be covered by health insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, if deemed medically necessary. However, coverage varies depending on the insurance provider, the specific policy, and the individual’s medical condition. Prior authorization and documentation from a healthcare professional may be required. It is recommended to check with the insurance provider to understand the coverage details.

Are there any alternatives to traditional wheelchairs?

Yes, there are alternative mobility devices available for individuals with specific needs. Some examples include mobility scooters, rollators (walking frames with wheels), knee walkers (scooters with a cushioned knee rest), and standing wheelchairs that allow users to shift into a standing position. These alternatives may be suitable for individuals who have limited mobility but do not require a full-time wheelchair. Consulting with a healthcare professional can help determine the best option.

Selecting the best wheelchair for an elderly individual requires careful consideration of their specific needs and preferences. When making a decision, prioritize factors such as comfort, durability, maneuverability, and safety. By choosing the right wheelchair, you can empower your loved ones to maintain their independence, mobility, and overall well-being.

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haley burress

Haley Burress – Writer, Senior Health Expert

Haley is a freelance writer specializing in senior health, caregiver support, and other topics relevant to older adults and aging. For more than 15 years, she had the honor of working in various senior living communities serving residents, families, and professional caregivers in local and national leadership roles. She uses that experience and those opportunities as she writes reliable, relatable, and realistic information that is designed to both educate and empower.

Over the past decade, Haley has had the opportunity to write informational resources, including extensive caregiver curriculum and training, for small and large senior service organizations. Her readers expect her to break down the sometimes overwhelming and frustrating information that comes with navigating senior living research, Medicare, and other social-emotional health topics.

When she isn’t writing at her desk (or at a corner table at her favorite coffee shop), Haley is usually walking her dog Junie around the neighborhood, exploring a new trail with her husband and teenage son, or sweating out stress on her Peloton bike. Just like other writers, Haley almost always has her nose in a book.

She takes her role as a senior living and caregiver expert seriously! You can find her elsewhere on the internet, such as her website or LinkedIn.

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