Top Manual Wheelchairs For Seniors

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

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Top Manual Wheelchairs For Seniors

Manual wheelchairs can be beneficial if you find yourself needing some help getting around. With age comes illnesses that can affect our ability to walk as well as we once did. Manual wheelchairs – which are moved by a person without the assistance of a battery or any other motorized mechanism – can offer you the ability to be mobile and stay independent for longer.

There are two basic types of manual wheelchairs – self-propelled and companion-propelled. Self-propelled requires the wheelchair user to move the chair with the use of their arms and legs, usually by pushing the arms forward as the hands grab the rims of the wheel. Companion-propelled means another person has to push the chair with the handles located on the back of the chair.

Manual wheelchairs are typically more cost-effective than other types of chairs. They are also generally easier to store and transport. Selecting the right chair is important, especially for first time users. Some people often choose a chair based on what insurance will pay for, but it’s important to consider style, weight and performance.

How We Found the Best Manual Wheelchairs for Seniors

8 Reviewers
47 Products Considered
10 Hours of Research
5 Products Reviewed
3 Top Picks

Features & Specs

  • 16, 18, 20, 22-inch seat width
  • Full-length and desk-length arm rests which flip back
  • Footplates come with or without heel loops
  • Leg rests offer three elevations
  • Padded or flat calf pads available

Pros

  • Custom options

  • Ant-tippers available to help prevent falling

  • Mid-range cost

  • High performance

Cons

  • Not ideal for long-term use

This chair has a variety of options, sizes, arm rests and foot rests and is considered an all-around effective chair. It’s lightweight and sturdy with a carbon steel frame. The seat has a heavy-duty inner liner to keep it from stretching.

The wheelchair is built with a dual-axle which will allow you to convert to hemi-height and use your feet to propel it.

Best Features

Best Features

Karman Healthcare 19.8 lbs Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair
$870.00

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Features and Specifications

  • Weighs only 19.8 lbs
  • Padded Seat and Back Upholstery
  • Fixed Rear Wheels with Ergonomic Handrim
  • Fixed Desk Length Armrest with Padded Ergonomic Armpads
  • Removable and Height Adjustable Footrest with Heel Loop

Pros

  • High quality, reasonably priced

  • Folding back rest for easy storage

  • Memory Foam seat cushions

Cons

  • Comfortability could be better

  • Arms don’t fold away

One of the best-selling points for this chair is its lightweight and easy to transport. It’s a versatile, comfortable chair as well and has been known to improve posture and prevent pressure sores that will sometimes develop from sitting in one place for too long.

The arm rests and leg rests are covered in breathable, antibacterial upholstery so it makes it easy to clean. The chair comes with “Frog Leg” shock-absorbent caster forks which can absorb shock by more than 75 percent on the leg rests. The leg rests are also designed to swing in or away which makes it easier to store.

Most Comfortable

Most Comfortable

Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair
$220.03

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Pros

  • Low maintenance smooth-rolling, flat free tires

  • Removable leg rests make easy to navigate tight spaces

Cons

  • Small arm rests

  • Wheels could be sturdier

This lightweight, durable chair is designed to make it easy to slip behind desks and tables. The arm rests swing and flip back and the leg rests will elevate and detach. Even though the chair is lightweight it is very sturdy and can support up to 300 pounds.

The wheelchair is easy to fold up and is built with a dual-axle which will allow you to convert to hemi-height and use your feet to propel it. The seat back is also adjustable.

Most Sturdy

Most Sturdy

NOVA Medical Products Lightweight Transport Chair with Locking Hand Brakes, Blue
$309.95

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Features and Specifications

  • IDEAL FOR TRANSPORT, TRAVEL & SAFETY – Much easier for transporting and travel than a wheelchair. Our unique design is lightweight, simple to maneuver and folds easily and compactly. Comes with secondary wheel locks and adjustable seat belt (adjusts to…
  • MOST VERSATILE DESIGN FOR ALL TERRAIN – Comes with NOVA’s patented locking hand brakes and 12” rugged rear wheels, allowing the companion to control the speed and park the brakes… a must for safety on inclines, bumps and all-terrain. Strong, durable…
  • COMFORTABLE PADDED ARMS – Full length padded arms are fixed and comfortable for the user. Foldable. Handle Height is 40.5 inches
  • EASY TO USE FOOTRESTS – Swing Away Footrests are easy to remove and lock back into place. They are easy to adjust with the push button design and come with heel loops so the user can rest their feet. Footplate Height from Floor: 5” – 9”
  • SPECIFICATIONS – Weight capacity: 300 pounds; Seat dimensions: 19.5″W x 16″D; Seat height: 20″; Opened overall width: 24.5″; Product weight: 23.75 lbs.; Folded dimensions: 27”D x 10.25”W x 31.5”H; Back height from seat: 19”; Arm height from seat:…

Pros

  • Flame retardant, black nylon upholstery

  • Dual axle for seat height adjustment

Cons

  • Wheels don’t always roll well

  • Better for small distances

This chair is designed to take on a variety of environments and terrains making it easy to get around. It also is equipped with a handbrake that requires very little pressure and will come to a stop with the slightest touch.

The Nova Medical chair is strong and sturdy, but lightweight enough, so it is easy to maneuver and store. Its arm rests make it easy to sit under desks and tables.

Best For Safety

Best For Safety

Drive Medical Lightweight Folding Transport Wheelchair with Swing-Away Footrests, Red
$175.43

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Pros

  • Easy to maneuver in narrow areas

  • Chair and back rest fold flat for easy transport

  • Lightweight, maintenance free wheels

  • Low cost

  • Seat belt included

Cons

  • May move even with brake on

  • Must bend down to put brake on

This chair is lightweight, easy to store and transport. The frame is scratch resistant, the arm rests are cushioned, and the leg rests will swing away to make it easier to get out of the chair.

The wheels provide a smooth ride over most surfaces and the rear wheels will lock. The back folds down to make it easy to carry and store and the chair comes with handles to help fold it up.

Informational text goes here
If you have trouble walking, for any reason, then a manual wheelchair may be a good option to help keep you as mobile as possible. It can allow for freedoms and abilities you might not have without it. Its main purpose is to increase your mobility and maximize your comfort.

Self-propelled manual wheelchairs do require upper body strength to propel them forward and you will need to have the ability to be able to stand up, sit down and walk for short periods of time to get in and out of the chair.

Fortunately, manual wheelchairs are fairly portable. They are no longer as heavy and cumbersome as they once were. Most are made with steel, aluminum and titanium. Manual wheelchairs often have frames that fold making them easier to store and transport.

When choosing a wheelchair, it’s important to consider comfort, as well as mobility. You don’t want a chair that will limit your body movement, cause pain or pressure sores, or be uncomfortable to sit in. So be sure the chair is the right size for you.

Before you buy a manual wheelchair, take measurements to ensure you get the proper fit. Take into consideration the seat width, seat height and seat depth. The most popular seat width is 18 inches, but to ensure it’s the proper fit for you, measure your backside from hip to hip and add two inches to allow for bulky or winter clothing.

One of the most common issues for wheelchair users can be the seat pinching the backs of their knees. To avoid this problem, measure the seat depth. If you can fit three or four fingers horizontally between the front edge of the seat and the back pit of the user’s knees, then the seat depth should be adequate.

To determine the seat height, measure from the user’s heel to the back pit of their knee and add two inches to make sure the foot rest is a proper amount off the floor. The average adult size is typically between 19.5 and 20.5 inches.

Don’t pick a chair that you feel squeezed into. Make sure you have enough space to move in the seat, rotate your upper body and move your arms. It’s important, if possible, to pick a chair that supports good posture, keeps your head, neck, and spine aligned, as well as your pelvis, hips and knees.

The good news is you don’t necessarily have to pay for your wheelchair by yourself. Medicare Part B covers manual wheelchairs as durable medical equipment (DME) if you have limited mobility. Your doctor will have to submit a written order stating you have a medical need for the wheelchair and you will have to meet the following guidelines according to Medicare:

  • You have a health condition that causes significant difficulty moving around in your home
  • You’re unable to perform daily living activities like bathing, dressing, getting in or out of a bed or chair, or using the bathroom, even with the help of a cane, crutch, or walker
  • You’re able to safely operate and get on and off the wheelchair or have someone with you who is always available to help you safely use the device
  • Your doctor who is treating you for the condition that requires a wheelchair and your supplier are both enrolled in Medicare
  • You can use the equipment within your home and it isn’t too big to fit through doorways
  • You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after you pay your Part B deductible for the year