The Best Manual Wheelchairs For The Elderly

The Best Manual Wheelchairs For The Elderly

The Best Manual Wheelchairs For The Elderly

I’ve written extensively about my list of recommended wheelchairs, with regards to electric wheelchairs and also lightweight ones.

So I thought it was appropriate to prepare a guide about manual wheelchairs- by far the most popular option.

Manual wheelchairs are a great good option for people that have a certain degree of mobility, want to maintain some level of exercise, but still need assistance.

Each person is different but in the end, the most important things to consider will be their ergonomics, comfort, and safety.

Here are my guidelines and recommendations for choosing the best manual wheelchair.

Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair

Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair

  • Durable steel frame.
  • Elevated footrest.
  • Total weight 45 lbs.
  • Weight capacity 300 lbs.

This Medline wheelchair is exactly what you need if you’re looking for a truly lightweight chair that can be transported with ease.

The frame is made of steel and it will hold users up to 300 lbs without issues.

Adjustability

The armrests are height adjustable and can be flipped out of the way or completely removed if necessary.

Most users truly appreciate the elevating leg rests. The ability to elevate the legs will relieve some of the pressure and help with any swelling issue.

Folding

The Medline wheelchair is also very easy to fold, you simply push the wheels together and pull the seat upwards, just watch your fingers!

The wheels are a flat-free design made of rubber, that gives you a smooth rolling experience. Even the seat is height-adjustable, and you’ll have 2’’ of wiggle room.

Measurements

The width of the seat for this model is 18’’ which is mostly used by adults, but you also have the option to choose between 16’’ for children and 20” for heavier adults.

When it comes to comfort this wheelchair doesn’t offer padding on the seat and backrest so you might want to have an extra pillow if you’ll be using it often.

Also, the wheelchair doesn’t have any storage compartments, so keep that in mind as well.

What We Like

  • Sturdy and easy to use.
  • Lightweight and easy to fold.
  • Adjustable.

What We Don’t Like

  • No padding on the seat.
  • Lack of storage area.

Drive Medical Cruiser III Light Weight Wheelchair

Drive Medical Cruiser III Light Weight Wheelchair

  • Carbon steel frame.
  • Padded armrests.
  • Total weight 38 lbs.
  • Weight capacity 300 lbs.

The Drive Medical Cruiser is similar to the Medline model in many ways- it has the same weight capacity, adjustable armrests, backrest, and adjustable seat depth.

They both have footrests that can be elevated, and they’re both lightweight and easy to fold.

The differences between these two models are subtle but could mean a lot to some users.

Design

First of all, this chair is slightly lighter, coming at a total weight of 38 lbs compared to the 45 lbs on the Medline.

Also, the armrests are padded which was not the case with the Medline model.

The Drive Medical wheelchair comes with handle breaks that seem to be a bit short for some users and you also get push-to-lock wheel locks in the front.

The nylon upholstery is easy to maintain and will keep you cool. Just like the Medline model, there are no storage compartments available.

What We Like

  • Lightweight and easy to fold.
  • Adjustable seat depth and backrest.
  • Elevated footrests.

What We Don’t Like

  • No storage compartments.

Karman Ergonomic Wheelchair

Karman Ergonomic Wheelchair

  • Ergonomic seat.
  • Companion brakes.
  • Total weight 29.5 lbs.
  • Weight capacity 220 lbs.

If you’re looking for the most lightweight and compact wheelchair available the Karman Ergonomic Wheelchair is probably the one.

Its total weight is 29.5 lbs, but if you remove the riggings it comes down to 19.5 pounds plus once it’s fully folded into transport mode, its weight decreases to only 14.5 lbs.

Unlike the previous models on our list, the Karman’s backrest can be folded which will be helpful for transport and visits to the hair salon.

Ergonomic design

The frame was made of aircraft-grade Aluminum with Ergonomics in mind.

The seating frame was made with an S-shape that follows the body’s natural curves and contributes to the comfort of the user.

It is comfortable enough without a cushion, which is a big plus for the caregiver, and the user. Just be sure to order a size up for the seat since it is on the tight-side.

We really liked the companion brakes that are situated at the handles so the caregiver won’t have to bend to brake.

Just make sure you understand that the brakes will allow you to slow down when going on inclines, but they can’t be locked in place.

Easy maneuverability & storage

This wheelchair fits through doors that bigger models can’t go through. It is extremely easy to push, and the wheels turn very easily.

The standard Karman model does not have quick-release wheels, but for a price of $40, you can add that option to your purchase.

This chair is a bit more expensive than the previous models but it does rate very high among users and most of them simply love it.

Together with the package, you get a storage bag that’s placed in the back.

What We Like

  • Contoured frame for comfort.
  • Easy to lift and transport.
  • Companion brakes easy to use.

What We Don’t Like

  • Higher price range.

Invacare Tracer SX5 Wheelchair

Invacare Tracer SX5 Wheelchair

  • Carbon steel frame.
  • Comfortable arm-rest design.
  • Self-propel with ease.
  • Weight capacity 250 lbs.

Compared with all the models on our list, we have to say the Invacare Tracer SX5 looks and feels like it got the most intricate attention from its designers.

The ability to self propel is very important to some users, and this one is a lot lighter to propel, due to the armrest design that allows you enough space to reach the wheels.

With that being said, its total weight is 52 lbs, so it is on the heavier side if you need to transport it regularly.

Design

Instead of footrests, this wheelchair features leg rests located under your calf. They are padded and comfortable for users that need extra support when elevating their legs.

The leg rests and the armrests work with a simple latch design that will make your life so much easier and the seat is 16’’ wide and can be adjusted for depth.

In terms of seat comfort, you get the standard wheelchair seat, but it does feel a bit better due to the heavy-duty inner lining that keeps everything in place.

If you order this chair be aware that it arrives in two separate packages (wheelchair and leg rests) that might arrive on different days. The only downside we could find on this model was the lack of a storage bag.

What We Like

  • Nice looking & sturdy frame.
  • Great design solutions.
  • Comfortable leg rests.

What We Don’t Like

  • On the heavy side.

Drive Medical Lightweight Steel Transport Wheelchair

Drive Medical Lightweight Steel Transport Wheelchair

  • Steel frame.
  • Cushioned armrests.
  • Total weight 32.8 lbs.
  • Weight capacity 250 lbs.

The Drive Medical Transport wheelchair will do a fairly good job when you need to take short trips, preferably on smooth surfaces as it doesn’t do well over uneven areas.

This lightweight wheelchair folds easily and its backrest can also be flipped down. The design is pretty simple and straightforward.

The only major issue we could find on this model is the footrests that continue flipping while you’re folding the chair and transporting it.

Caregivers should be aware of this design flaw but there is a solution which would be to remove the footrests every time, but they’re not the easiest to work with.

Size and cost

According to the price, this is a budget model, with that being said there are a few things to keep in mind.

The seat size is smaller than you’d expect so most users recommend getting 1 size wider than what you’d need.

If you’re unhappy with your purchase it is quite cumbersome to return the product since you pay for the shipping.

Finally, due to the lower budget, the company seems to have cut some corners and placed an inferior footrest that collapses easily, so keep that in mind as well.

What We Like

  • Suited for short transfers.
  • Budget-friendly price.

What We Don’t Like

  • Unreliable.

Medline

Medline works with large healthcare systems, physicians, and home health patients.

They have a large team of 1,200 sales reps ready to talk to you, as well as 14.000 employees around the world.

This is a family-run US business spanning 4 generations back to 1910. Their primary focus is to ‘make healthcare affordable for all.’

Drive Medical

Drive Medical or Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare started its medical journey back in 2000 under the name Medical Depot Inc.

The reason behind changing so many names and finally getting to the shortest version ‘Drive’ lies in the company’s pursuit to obtain a name that will completely represent their true essence.

Their motto is to ‘enhance the quality of life of the people they touch’ and they have a variety of durable medical equipment and a multinational presence.

Karman

Karman Healthcare offers much more than wheelchairs. They also offer walkers, rollators, oxygen regulators, etc, but wheelchairs and innovation seem to be their main focus.

They have started focusing on manufacturing and distribution back in 1994, and now have over 100 different models of wheelchairs to choose from.

This is a company that is devoted to ergonomics, and user comfort.

Invacare

The Invacare brand is focused on providing users at home with the same level of comfort that they would find in a nursing home.

This is supposed to be better for the patients, as they can receive their services from the comfort of their home, in a safe environment, and at a much lower cost.

They strive to provide sophisticated home health care.

Hi-Fortune Magnesium Self-Propelled Lightweight Chair

If you need an easy to manage travel wheelchair that folds easily with a quick-release hinge, check out this Hi-Fortune magnesium alloy model.

Once fully assembled you get 21 lbs of weight that is easy to transport and comes down to the size of a 29’’ luggage case.

It will fit in most car trunks, can be checked on a plane (cargo compartment), and can be taken into the subway.

Design

It comes with easy to manage swing-away footrests and a storage bag in the back.

The wheels are easy for self-propelling, have anti-tippers in the rear, and perform well on uneven surfaces.

The seat width is 17.5’’ which is close to the most used standard of 18’’ for adults.

The wheelchair features both companion and user brakes placed on the handles, and in the front. This model’s weight capacity is set to 220 lbs.

Drive Medical Silver Sport 1 Wheelchair

The Drive Medical Silver Sport 1 is a budget wheelchair that gives you the most for the least amount of money.

It comes with a steel frame, urethane tires, and locks on the wheels. The padded armrests are full length and cannot be removed.

The footrests can be pushed away or removed at your convenience. It will be easy to self-propel with the help of a handwheel.

The seat width is 18’’ and it will hold users up to 250 lbs.

Karman Healthcare Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair

The Karman Ultra lightweight wheelchair is really comfortable for the user. It comes with a padded cover that is machine-washable so you won’t need extra cushions.

The seat frame follows the standard S-curve, a signature design for Karman, and an ergonomic benefit for your body.

This wheelchair weighs a total of 38 lbs but comes down to 25 lbs once the footrests are removed. It folds with ease and takes a small footprint due to the foldable backrest.

Even the hand rim used for self-propelling is shaped with ergonomics in mind, to make it easier for the user.

The armrests are comfortable and support the elbow, but they cannot be removed.

Invacare Tracer EX2 Wheelchair

The Invacare Tracer EX2 is a good daily wheelchair that features a carbon steel frame and a 14-gauge cross brace for durability.

The seat is adjustable for depth and the contoured backrest feels comfortable to users. The Tracers total weight is 37 lbs and it will hold users up to 250 lbs.

The design looks attractive although some users complained about not getting the correct order.

Sometimes the color is different or the style of the armrests and the answer is always the same; that the manufacturer went out of stock and shipped the next best thing.

This tradition has left some users disappointed.

Type Of Chair

The biggest mistake you can make when choosing the right wheelchair is to hope one model will fit all your needs.

There are different types of wheelchairs available and they all serve a certain purpose.

Some will be more durable and long-lasting, but their weight might limit the transport process. Others will be lighter but might require assistance to push.

So in reality most people end up owning 2 types of wheelchairs. Let’s explore this further:

Standard

The standard wheelchair usually comes with a steel frame that lasts longer but is heavier than aluminum or carbon steel.

A standard wheelchair has a pretty straightforward design and doesn’t offer too much in terms of comfort.

This is the most commonly used type and comes the closest to being an all-round unit.

It is recommended for daily use but if you’re constantly on the move it might be wiser to get a transportation wheelchair.

For Transportation

The transportation wheelchairs are usually easy to fold and have a folding backrest that allows the caregiver to transport them safely, and with ease, in smaller vehicles.

Most of the models that are good for transport have swing-away footrests and removable armrests making them convenient to fit through tight spaces.

These are recommended for users that need assistance from a caregiver.

Ergonomic

The ergonomic type will be well suited to users that spend a lot of time in their wheelchair or need extra comfort.

They usually come with an ergonomic frame that follows the shape of the body and relieves any pressure points.

The seat and the backrest should have padding, and some models come with a padded antibacterial cover that is machine-washable, eliminating any chance for stains or odor.

Lightweight

Lightweight wheelchairs are usually purchased by users that wish to travel and need something light and easy to fold and transport.

They can have large self-propelled or small wheels, depending on your needs.

Lightweight wheelchairs are not as durable as the standard wheelchair but are extremely practical for users that travel a lot.

The person’s mobility

Before you choose a certain type of a wheelchair you’ll need to take into consideration the users’ mobility. Will they be able to self-propel or do they need a caregiver?

Assistance

Are they able to walk on their own for transport or does someone need to assist them? Can they sit up on their own?

Also, make sure the caregiver can lift the wheelchair if necessary. If the user lives on an incline you would also need to consider having good quality breaks.

Usage

Make sure you take the surrounding terrain into consideration-  bigger wheels can go easier over obstacles.

At the end of the day, choosing the right wheelchair really depends on your individual needs, but hopefully, we have managed to cover the most important features you should consider before making your purchase.