Why You Want to Avoid this Furniture as you Age
Standing up from a chair can be difficult for those with mobility issues. Power lift recliners may seem like the perfect solution for standing problems. They allow you to rise with less effort without requiring you to use your hands to push out of the chair. But power lift chairs can actually create more mobility problems than they solve!
During my career in working with the elderly, I’ve seen many individuals decline in mobility due to power lift chairs. It’s easy to understand why these types of chairs can contribute to muscle weakness. Less obvious is that these chair contribute to the loss of proper body mechanics required for standing. After using a power lift chair for a short period of time, it’s common to lose the ability to independently stand from any chair at all.
Body Mechanics of Standing
To appreciate how this problem develops, try standing up from any chair and observe the position of your body as you move from sitting to standing. You likely scoot toward the edge of your chair, tuck your feet close to the chair, and perhaps place your hands on the chair arms or on your thighs. Most importantly, as you begin the process of standing, notice you bend at the hips while your upper body is being propelled forward. Notice when your weight shifts fully to your feet, you begin to straighten your hips and trunk into a full, upright stand.
It is that forward propulsion that shifts your weight from the seat of the chair to your feet. Your upper body provides a counterweight to your lower body that rests on the chair. If you don’t believe me, try standing without allowing your hips to flex your torso forward and instead try pushing your body straight up toward the ceiling. Not only does the maneuver make standing much more difficult, but it also puts increased pressure on your knees and with repetition, creates significant wear and tear on the knees. Propelling yourself forward is key in shifting weight to your feet efficiently and safely.
Eroding Good Body Mechanics
Now let’s consider the lift chair. When the lift chair raises you into standing, the bottom of the chair begins to tilt forward, forcing you to either slide out of the chair or to press back against the chair to avoid being dumped onto the floor. Pushing yourself back is the exact opposite use of force you need to stand up. Executed enough times, sufficient neuro pathways are generated so this becomes your reflexive method of standing.
When you use a lift chair, not only will you lose the strength in the muscles that facilitate independent standing, you will also weaken the neuro pathways that provide the proper body mechanics that allow you to shift your weight onto your feet to stand independently.
Many a well-meaning relative or friend has purchased a power lift chair for their aging loved ones. But I’ve never seen a case where an individual has actually benefitted from using one. Quite the opposite, in fact, power lift chairs can actually create mobility problems. If weakness or compromised joints are contributing to decreased mobility, the best remedies are the old standbys: exercise, eat right, stay active, and use the proper body mechanics for standing.