Prevent Elderly Wheelchair Users, Who Can’t Walk Very Far or Fast, Heads From Dropping


The elderly can be grouped depending on their mobility level. Each group has its own requirements to make their wheelchair seating experience safe and comfortable. Make sure to read every blog to thoroughly understand each category. 

People who “can’t walk fast or far”, often encounter poor sitting posture because they are using the wrong wheelchair configuration. Therefore it is important to learn the correct seat depth, width, and height.

What is the correct wheelchair seat depth?

If the seat depth is too deep, then there is not enough space behind the user’s knees so it will be uncomfortable for the user to sit for long periods of time. The user will try to slide forwards to find a more comfortable position, compromising their spine positioning and dropping their head.

When the seat depth is too shallow, the lack of thigh and seat contact means the user leans forwards, drops their head, and put all of their weight on their feet to find some stability.

Left; The seat depth is too deep and forces the user to slide down the wheelchair. Right; The seat depth is clearly too shallow. The user has no thigh support so their solution is to lean forward and find support on their feet. Source: KARMA Taiwan

To measure the correct seat depth, the user’s hips should be as far back on the wheelchair as possible. Secondly, the position of the foot plates should be positioned correctly. Lastly, leave a space of two fingers (3 cm)  between the edge of the cushion and the user’s calf. 

What is the correct wheelchair seat width?

Sometimes user’s families may think that a wider seat width will be more comfortable for the wheelchair user however this is not true. If the seat width of a wheelchair is too wide, there is no proper trunk support for the user and they will lean to one side to find the support they originally lacked. This will cause problems in the long run such as scoliosis. If a better fitting wheelchair is unavailable, then the user can add lateral support or wedges on each side of the user’s thighs to make them more comfortable.

What is the correct wheelchair backrest height?

If the back height of a wheelchair is too low, the user will have no head support and have no choice but to slide forwards and drop their head. However, if the backrest is too high, self-propelling a wheelchair will be uncomfortable. Therefore, the correct back height for a self propel wheelchair therefore should reach the shoulder blades. For elderly users who have poor trunk control, the back height should be higher to provide more support. 

Left; Backrest is too low! The user is leaning forwards and dropping their head. Right; The backrest is too high to comfortably self propel. Source: KARMA Taiwan

Curved Headrest

If the elderly user needs to use the wheelchair for long periods of time, using a simple curved headrest will make resting in the wheelchair more comfortable. The curved headrest is height, depth, and angle adjustable. This headrest is able to be folded alongside the wheelchair.

We’re here to help

For this group of elderly users, choosing a wheelchair with the correct depth, width, and seat height will prevent the elderly user’s head from dropping. If necessary, the user can also add accessories such as a headrest to make the user more comfortable. 

If you need further assistance choosing a wheelchair for an elederly, KARMA Malaysia is always here to assist. Talk to a KARMA representative today! 

Call us: 03-5612 1921 / 010 – 238 1921

Email us: [email protected]