CHOICE membership

Electric lift & recliner chairs

First to clarify, a recliner tilts back and a footrest folds out. A lift chair gently elevates the chair and tilts the seat forward to help the occupant get out of the chair.

Recliner chairs have always been a thing in the homes of older people. The recliners have modernised and upgraded with motors and push button controls and the lift and tilt function.

I have been told that electrical lift & recliner chairs are apparently becoming big selling items possibly to do with our aging population. They are also a boon to people with injuries or illnesses like arthritis.

Is it possible Choice might look at these and evaluate what is good and what is not?

Also, any feedback from forum members on their good/bad experiences, and good/bad products would be appreciated.

Thanks

Edit: Apparently massage function(s) is now included in some. Is this feature of any benefit?

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We bought one, secondhand, many years ago (when they were not as common as now) for a home trial, which had been custom made. The most important measurement, the seller told us, was the width of the seat - between the chair arms - and to a lesser extent, the depth. It needed to be wide/deep enough to sit in comfortably, but not too wide/deep, so the user was well supported.

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Thanks for your advice.

I’m guessing that the advantage of the electric lift & tilt is that even if it’s deep, it’s not too hard to get out of.

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I have a recliner/lift chair. It also has heating and vibration. It is a boon to getting up, just press the lift button and it raises the back so that my feet are gently lowered onto the floor without me having to lift myself up and forward to get out… If I have it in the recliner position on pressing the button it first returns it to the normal position and then commences the lift. I can program a number of positions into the memory so that on selecting one it automatically adjusts to that preferred setting. It also has a backup battery so in the case of a power failure it returns to the normal position. Wouldn’t be without it. but if buying one would insist on the backup battery.

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Brilliant. Thank you. That is something I would never have thought of.

Do you recommend your brand? If so what is it please?

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I will send you a PM with the contact details of the Manufacturer later tonight after I dig them up. They supply nationally as far as I know and are NDIS approved. Yes I do recommend them but the one I have is expensive but they start at around a couple of thousand for decent ones. Battery was about an extra $300 from memory. I have had 2 problems in the 3 years but they repaired at no cost to me and came to the house to do it, one was a motor that got too hot when using the vibration, the other was some of the trim was faulty stitched and needed an upholsterer to repair it…I got the leather as it is much better than fabric or vinyl types for long periods of sitting and lasts a lot longer if treated properly.

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I’d second that - an elderly family member and her husband had matching chairs except for the width - hers narrower - she finds the wider chair much more difficult to exit from and not as comfortable - much easier in the narrower one suited to her. These aren’t lifting chairs, just recliners.

Another couple of points to consider in testing/selection:

  • even some expensive models can have flimsy plastic actuators and gearing. Be very specific about warranty, what it covers, and what materials the moving parts are made from. They can be very expensive to replace. If there is an option for extended warranty it might be worth considering subject to the fine print (just a thought).
  • make sure the chair has a failsafe and that you understand what it is, how it works and how long it is good for. If there is a power failure or even just a fuse trip, you might be planted in the living room until it is resolved. From what I understand and some limited experience per above, better chairs have a battery backup or some kind of failsafe that should allow for at least one exit from the seat no matter what position the user is stuck in. I’d imagine the lifting ones might have the lift function available as well but I’ve no experience with the lifters. In the case of a battery, does it recharge or need to be changed and if so how often, etc.
  • can the chair be fixed to the floor easily. There can be a certain ‘slump factor’ that can cause chairs to migrate in a backwards direction, often towards walls, windows or whatever is behind (usually something, chairs are rarely in the middle or the room). This might be as simple as an angle bracket and a couple of wood screws (maybe 10$ total from the hardware store) or it might have something fancier - but the ability to do it might be beneficial. People needing such chairs may find it inconvenient or even impossible to wrestle them back to the original position after they have migrated …
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I would guess that the depth is of importance for a person of limited ability to position and/or re-position him/herself in the chair when sitting down: agree that the getting up is facilitated by the lift and tilt mechanism…

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We’ve recently purchased a recliner lift chair for our mum. Some great suggestions already.

Yes it is a topic worthy of Choice interest. For an average chair based on shopping around, little change out of $3,000, leather extra.

A few points to add.
Firstly if you need a lift chair most are standard with a battery. The chair needs a mains power point for the power brick. The battery is typically a built in rechargable. We purchased from a mobility aid supplier who said all their chairs had this feature. It is not an extra!

Secondly every chair has a different fit. The one we chose came in two body sizes plus three back design options. Good advice is to check the leg length with the foot rest raised. Your heels need to just hang free. If you are aged and have back issues getting that right may be critical. Our older family members often sleep in their chairs.

Third, the fabric and cushions need to be washable and easily replaceable. Don’t ask why. You will know why if you do.

Some cushions are softer, others firmer. Body weight may be a consideration vs density or padding. Some have removable loose fill which you can adjust.

The controller may offer in the more expensive versions memory position settings, or have multiple buttons. For the technically challenged, more than two buttons may be a problem. The controller needs to be easy to use and logical for old arthritic hands.

Support and warranty are critical. Our chair was delivered and installed, plus tested on set up for $50. It also needed a test and tag to keep the aged care provider happy.

Value or pricing seems to be hard to determine. The principle market for some is aged care and NDIS recipients with packages. We could not help feeling the industry prices to those markets at a premium. Some chairs are supposedly Australian made, however it seems more likely they use imported frames and mechanics/electrics.

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Some provide a battery now as a standard but not all do. Just like car models not every manufacturer has every feature.

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There’s not many (current) car models that don’t have a battery :wink: :wink:

Seriously though, if the chair (my understanding, intended and designed for people who are less agile than ‘agile’) does not have some kind of failsafe to allow the user to exit the chair without being a vaulting gymnast (typically a battery powered function, but I’ve heard rumours of other releases?), then I’d seriously suggest it is not fit for purpose. To me, it would be like a purveyor of a given car model saying “brakes? oh, you want to be able to stop as well as go? we can sell you the brakes option …”. I think it falls into the category of ‘basic functional safety’ not a ‘nice to have’ …

(picture of vaulting gymnast in action, for reference - nothing like the mobility of the relatives of mine who use such chairs !!)

image

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Why you should ask, I am not saying it is good enough to not have one. Some have a release like a handle from what I remember. But there are good makes some not so good. Mine when we ordered it didn’t come standard with a battery, they may very well do now.

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I’ve heard the same. No I certainly didn’t think you were saying it was good enough not to have one - just that I can imagine some companies selling it like a luxury option so to speak when I really don’t think it’s actually optional - and not enlightening potential customers to the implications and risks. I know also of one that has a fairly meagre battery (9v alkaline for example) - I know someone who was prisoner in their own chair until assisted by a more able bodied person who luckily was at the residence at the time - seemed amusing to me at first, but I can imagine scenarios that are not at all far fetched where this might be very serious. Many people in our society are vulnerable in some way (physically in this context I guess) and have little or no family support - and even if they do, it isn’t in the immediate sense, ie the timeframe where things could go seriously wrong - something as simple as getting a regular med dose for example. I know this is stating the obvious to most, but I think it is worth the mention because it potentially impacted a close family member.

Great to collect all these ideas/concerns/etc for a CHOICE test. I think the request for this test is very appropriate and valid … there are a lot of considerations and I won’t be surprised if we see some more …

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It seems so obvious once you say it. My father used a non lifting electric recliner. Big, soft foam, dark leather. It could swallow two whole. The battery back up was a great feature and would operate the chair for up to a week of normal use. Proven when the brick was not plugged back in after vacuuming. Easy to test Choice.

It’s good that @grahroll has pointed out there may be lifting chairs or recliners without battery backup operation. There was no way dad could get out of his chair if it was reclined and footrest up, without returning it to upright normal. The backup feature added $200 to the cost for his chosen model. We also wondered if the option was more a standard feature. The model with battery backup was in stock. The non backup version, to order?

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We’ve got two non powered recliners purchased as part of a lounge suite. The mechanism is spring loaded on a rail. When the latch on the side is pulled it releases the spring; the footrest pops up and the back reclines to a set (non adjustable) semi sitting position. It is reclined sufficiently to allow a nap, but still upright enough to watch TV.

To return to the upright position it requires considerable strength in the knee and lower leg to push the footrest down, moving the chair on the rail, and click into position. Now in his 70’s (and still very fit and active) he’s struggling to do it and it sometimes causes pain. I am too short to sit comfortably, so have a number of cushions behind me and don’t use the recline function.

I think an Ease of Return to Upright should be a consideration in any test.

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A good point if looking to buy a manual version of the recliner. Thank you.

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The depth of seat is important for comfort and support in any chair.

If it is too deep you tend to slide forward, this does not give correct lumbar support, curves the lower back and it uncomfortably presses the back of your knees which may also tend to lift your feet off the floor. Having your feet dangling has its own problems. The problem is reduced by having a footrest that lifts the feet and straightens the knees which allow your bottom to stay back where it belongs. This is particularly so where the footrest is padded and becomes part of the leg support with the seat when extended.The seat being too shallow will not support your thighs properly.

Correct fit of the seat is even more important for office chairs. In both cases seat depth is something that manufacturers and salespeople tend to care about last. There seems to be a lack of education about it.

There is a trend for office chairs to have multiple adjustments these days - once it was only height and maybe back angle. Lounge chairs are mostly still built on the one size fits all principle. If you are smaller or larger than average this can be a real problem. Also if you already have a bad back sitting in a chair that doesn’t fit for any length of time may make it worse.

Custom built furniture is horridly expensive and not to be contemplated for most of us. Some of the better makers deal with the problem in lounge chairs by having different models. Often the models are a variation of style, equipment and price point but in some cases it is size too. So it is worth shopping around and going to places where the staff know and care if your chair is the right size for you.

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Agree completely. I tried lots of chairs and did in-home trials of a couple till I found one that felt right for me.

This is why I was asking about the electric lift and recliner chairs. There seems to be so many on the market it is very hard to know what is good, and it can be an very expensive mistake if it turns out that the chair is not what was hoped for.

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Counterpoint to Request A Test

Since comfort, body, and posture is very individual a test is necessarily limited to functionality, eg measurements and how does it retract and return - but whether when seated, retracted or returned is it comfortable or suitable remains for the individual to decide for him/herself, is that not the case?

It seems a buyers guide is more appropriate than a test.

I have a full function massage chair. I love it. My spousal unit (apologies for the engineering term) is not a fan. Some will and some will not. The vibrations or rollers some prefer others equally will not.

There have been great comments about width, backup batteries, and other things, all important and germane to a guide, but I suggest anything ‘seating furniture’ is not quantitatively testable in a meaningful way although comments on a product’s safety and construction should be helpful while reliability is likely outside of what Choice could do.

How would electric lifts and recliners fit into Choice’s resources and priorities? A guide, or a test?

Exactly.

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Absolutely. I am suggesting that the objective tests are done first by Choice so as to be able to focus on the best options for subjective testing.

Thanks for the feedback on the massage chair. In our case ‘er indoors loved an over-the-chair massager we had, but it just didn’t do much of anything for me.

As to Choice’s resource, I have no doubt they will assess whether to look at this or not, & if they do look at it, what the best option will be. If nothing else, perhaps it will be put in the queue for looking at when resources permit.

I was proposing this because I know this is a topic of increasing interest out there.

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