This blog began as a journal of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Award visit to the USA to study how Lifestyle Redesign could be used in Occupational Therapy to improve the hospital/home interface for older people. It has continued to record developments and inspiration gained from that experience since returning from Los Angeles early in 2012.

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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Choosy about Chairs...


Are you sitting comfortably?

Getting in and out of chairs is something that often becomes more difficult as we age. One of the main reasons is that the large muscles of the legs tend to become weaker, but aches and pains from arthritis and various other complaints can also play a part. Luxurious deep, wide armchairs with squashy cushions make for a lovely soft landing when sitting down, but it can be an inelegant struggle to get back up again!

If you are in the market for a new chair, think ahead and aim to choose something that is not just stylish but practical as well as comfortable. The ideal is to aim to be seated comfortably, but not slouched in the chair, so a fairly straight, high back to the chair is an advantage. You want to have your knees level with your hips and your feet firmly on the floor. If the chair is too low your knees will be higher than your hips and more effort is needed to get up. If the chair is too high your feet will be dangling, this is not comfortable and can lead to swollen feet and ankles. The chair should be reasonably firm to provide support. Don’t forget to look at how wide the seat of the chair is, aim to feel supported in it without it being tight. Check the ‘depth’ of the chair- the distance from back to front- make sure the back supports you without needing lots of cushions behind you and that most of your upper leg is supported. Firm armrests are important as these give support to push up from. If at all possible try the chair in the showroom before you buy as mistakes can be costly. If you prefer lounging on the couch, remember that these offer less support when sitting and when getting up. You might want to think about a chair and use a footstool to put your feet up.

If you are unable to try out a chair, you may want to ask your Occupational Therapist for advice or help with measurements. Your OT can also help if you are not able to buy a new chair as there may be equipment that could be used to make the chair you have more suitable for you.

So, this is great, you know what to look for in a chair to make getting in and out of it easier. But, as always, prevention is better than cure and age proofing your life involves keeping strong, particularly in your leg muscles, for as long as possible. So don’t neglect the exercises or activities you enjoy that make you use your leg muscles, walking is one of the best and the sooner you begin the better!

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