Riser-recliner chairs are an invaluable mobility aid for people who find standing up and sitting down difficult or uncomfortable, helping them maintain personal independence and making daily life easier.
Riser-recliner chairs have come a long way since the first recliner with a lift-assisting mechanism was introduced in the 1980s. Though the earliest lift chair models were bulky, expensive, and prone to frustrating mechanical problems, the demand for them remained strong and by the 1990s engineering and design advances resulted in chairs that were durable, reliable, comfortable, and convenient.
Today’s modern riser-recliner chairs offer a wide array of options that make it possible for the vast majority of users to find a chair that perfectly matches their needs in just about every aspect, from physical capabilities and medical conditions to space requirements, design, and style. For a first-time buyer the sheer volume of options can be baffling or even overwhelming, but following this guide can make selecting the right chair much simpler.
What Is a Riser-Recliner, and Is It Right For Me?
Riser-recliners can be purchased from firms that specialize in mobility products, and some companies will also custom-build riser-recliners to a user’s exact specifications.
The price of riser-recliners varies considerably, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand pounds depending on style, materials, and options selected.
Modern riser-recliners are available in a wide variety of styles, making it easy to find one that will match the decor of any room. Like ordinary recliner chairs, riser-recliners are substantial pieces of furniture that cannot be considered portable or easy to move.
Riser-recliners or lift chairs are primarily designed for use by people who have some mobility and can stand for at least brief periods of time with minimal assistance. A riser-recliner may not be the best choice for people who cannot stand at all unless they can be sure that someone will be nearby to help them during the transition to and from the lift chair.
Elderly people or those who suffer from osteoarthritis, neuromuscular disease, back or neck problems, knee or hip ailments, or any injury or condition that makes rising painful or difficult may be good candidates for a riser-recliner or lift chair.
All riser recliners basically work the same way: a seated user presses a button and the chair slowly rises and tips forward slightly so the user can easily transition from seated to a standing position.
To sit down, the user presses a button that elevates the chair, positions himself against the raised seat, and another button press slowly lowers the chair until the user is in a seated position.
From the seated position, the user can use the button controls to make the chair recline and extend the built-in foot rest/leg support.
How these actions are handled differs depending on the type of chair and the features it offers.
Single motor chairs
Single motor chairs are designed to automatically extend the foot rest whenever the chair is in a reclining position. When the chair is brought back to the upright sitting position the foot rest automatically retracts. Single motor chairs are sold as either two position chairs, which can be used upright or reclined to 45 degrees, or as three position chairs, which add the ability to fully recline. Single motor, two position chairs are generally the most affordable riser-recliner option.
Dual motor chairs
Dual motor chairs are generally sold as “infinite position” chairs because they use two motors to adjust the back and foot rest/leg support independently. With this type of chair the user can choose how much to recline and when the foot rest extends, which provides much more flexibility of position. On dual motor infinite position models the back of the chair can also be lowered beyond fully reclined, so that it’s flat like a bed. Dual motor chairs are generally more expensive than single motor models.
Tilt in space chairs
Tilt in space chairs offer a unique reclining action that offers some special benefits. Rather than having the seat separate from the backrest to recline, the entire seating portion of the chair simply tilts backward to recline, keeping the user in a seated position. Because this feature makes it possible to elevate the legs above the hips, it’s excellent for users who have circulation problems or who experience swelling of the legs and feet. It’s also a useful feature for users who have back problems, because it provides consistent support for the neck, back, and pelvis. The tilt in space feature is available on both single and dual motor chairs, depending on model and manufacturer.
Riser-recliner controls are typically simple hand-held button panels that are similar to a TV remote control but are attached to the chair by an electric lead. Single motor, two position chairs may only have “rise” and “recline” buttons, while dual motor, infinite position chairs may have as many as five buttons to control the various position options. Riser-recliners typically feature a side pocket for storing the control or a loop for securing the control’s lead, and many manufacturers offer both right and left-handed controls.
Most riser-recliners include an emergency battery backup to ensure that the chair will continue to work even if there is a power outage. Depending on the model, the batteries may be either rechargeable or replaceable.
Selecting The Riser-Recliner That’s Right For You
Modern riser-recliners offer a huge variety of styles, options and features that make it possible to really custom-tailor your lift chair to your own personal needs. It may take some time to evaluate all the possibilities, but it’s an important part of getting a chair that’s truly perfect for you. Here are some important points to keep in mind.
How do you intend to use the chair?
This is one of the most important considerations, because it can help you decide what type of reclining action and number of positions you need. If you’re generally active, won’t be using the chair for extended periods of time, and only need the lift chair for assistance with sitting and standing, a simple single motor, two position chair may do all that you require at the lowest possible price. If you’ll be sitting in your riser-recliner for extended periods, however, you may want to consider a three position or infinite position chair for greater comfort and more position choices. If you’ll be sleeping in your chair, you definitely want to consider an infinite position chair that will flatten out completely, like a bed.
Does the chair match your body type?
Unlike ordinary furniture that is generally selected to accommodate a variety of users, riser-recliners are very personal items that should be chosen with the needs of one specific user in mind. It’s important to get a chair that fits you well; if it’s too large or too small your comfort and convenience will be seriously compromised. Most manufacturers offer chairs in a variety of sizes and users who are particularly tall or heavy can find chairs specially designed to accommodate their dimensions, with features like extended backs, oversize foot rests, extra wide reinforced seats, and heavy-duty lifting mechanisms.
Do you have specific medical needs?
Riser-recliners can be a real godsend to people who have medical conditions that make sitting in an ordinary chair uncomfortable or even dangerous. If you have circulatory problems or problems with leg, foot, or ankle swelling, a chair with the tilt in space feature can help alleviate the problem by elevating your legs above your hips. If you have a condition that makes sitting upright or even in a standard reclining position uncomfortable, a three position or infinite position chair can give you more options for comfortable positioning. People who have back or neck problems may need chairs that offer additional padding and support on the backrest.
How much space is available?
Like most standard recliners, regular riser-recliners require about three feet of space behind them in order to fully extend into maximum reclining position. If you don’t have that much space available, look for models that are sold as “wallhuggers”. This feature means that the chair slides forward to recline, making it possible to place the chair as little as 4 to 6 inches from a wall. Wallhuggers are generally somewhat more expensive than standard lift chairs, but they can make it possible to enjoy the benefits of a riser-recliner even in small rooms.
Are pets or children part of your household?
If there will be pets or children in the room with the riser-recliner you will definitely need an important safety feature known as “anti-crush”, a built-in mechanism that can prevent real tragedies from happening if a child or animal crawls under the chair while it’s in operation. The anti-crush feature may be a barrier that prevents children or animals from getting under the chair, or it may be a sensor mechanism that halts movement if it senses something under the chair.
More Features and Options to Consider
There are many, many features and options available for making your riser-recliner precisely right for you. Though these additional features can increase the initial investment in a riser-recliner, the comfort and convenience they provide may be well worth the cost. Here are some to keep in mind.
Pressure relief features:
This is particularly important for anyone who will be spending many consecutive hours sitting, reclining or sleeping in their chair. Many manufacturers offer memory foam or special gel cushions that spread body weight and eliminate “pressure points”. These special cushions go a long way toward maintaining comfort and preventing the formation of pressure sores. Other pressure relief features may also be available, including special electrical systems that work by pumping air or water through the cushions to ease pressure points.
Heat and massage:
Some riser-recliner models can be equipped with built-in massagers or heating pads, which can enhance comfort.
Custom back and/or head rests:
If you have a medical condition that requires extra back or neck support or simply makes using standard chairs uncomfortable, you can order many riser-recliners with a variety of custom back and neck support configurations. The options include extra firm or extra soft backs, “waterfall” or pillow backs that provide varying levels of support and can be adjusted to the user’s needs, and extra cushions to support the head and neck.
Custom fabric choices:
While you will doubtless want to select a covering that matches or works well with the rest of your furniture, you should be aware that many manufacturers offer a variety of custom fabrics that address special needs. This could be particularly important for users who spend a great deal of time in the chair, who eat or sleep in the chair, or who are frequently accompanied by pets when sitting in the chair.
Selecting a fabric covering that is specially treated to be moisture and stain resistant can keep your riser-recliner fresh and inviting, and choosing one that has excellent “breathability” can really enhance comfort. This is crucial for users who spend many hours in their lift chair; in this case a breathable fabric covering is definitely preferable over leather or vinyl.
Finding the right covering is a major issue for users who have incontinence problems. Fabrics that are moisture and stain proof are good, but the seat should always be covered with absorbent incontinence pads made specifically to protect furniture. These inexpensive commercial pads are readily available almost everywhere, and they can really prolong the useful life of your riser-recliner.
Making the Purchase
The most traditional way of testing a chair is by actually sitting in it, but it’s unrealistic to assume that all potential riser-recliner users could travel to a shop or showroom to try the various models. If going to stores in person isn’t feasible for you, or if you’re simply interested in having the most choices at the best prices, buying online is an outstanding option.
Many online suppliers have a truly extensive range of products from which to choose, actually giving you more selection than you could get in a store or showroom. Online suppliers also offer complete and comprehensive product information as well as personalized assistance, and all at prices that are often substantially lower than you’d find on the high street. Buying a riser-recliner online can definitely give you the best product at the lowest possible price, but you have to be clear on what you want and need.
All reputable vendors provide a contact number that prospective buyers can use to get specific information about the models that interest them. The best organizations will gladly put you in touch with an experienced sales consultant who will talk with you about your needs, budget, and expectations and assess your individual requirements before making a recommendation.
The consultant will ask a variety of questions to help them determine which products could benefit you most, and in order to get the best possible match to your personal requirements you need to be ready with the answers. Here are some facts and figures you should have at hand before contacting a sales consultant.
Know your vital statistics
The consultant will need to know your height and weight in order to determine which product will suit you best, so have those figures on hand and don’t be self-conscious about it. Matching the chair to your height and weight is absolutely key to getting the right riser-recliner. If you have a standard recliner or other chair that fits you well, measure its height from floor to seat, the height and width of the back, and the width and depth of the seat. These measurements can help the consultant recommend the best size riser-recliner for you.
Know how you intend to use the chair
Will you be using the riser-recliner for watching TV a few hours each evening, or will you be sitting in it to do most of your daily activities? Will you be taking some or all of your meals in the lift chair? Do you plan to sleep in the chair? The consultant will need to know what kind of use the chair will get in order to recommend the one that suits you best.
Know how much time you will spend sitting in the chair
Be ready with a realistic estimate of the amount of time you will spend sitting in your riser-recliner. This will help the consultant determine which reclining action will best serve you, what kind of covering will be the most comfortable, etc.
Be ready to describe your medical conditions
In order to recommend the best chair for you the consultant will need to know if you have any special medical situations to be taken into consideration. Circulatory problems, neck or back issues, arthritis, neurological conditions, and more can all be helped by the right riser-recliner, but the consultant needs to know about them in order to make informed recommendations.
Make a note of any specific personal preferences
Jot down your personal needs and preferences; don’t just trust your memory, because it’s easy to lose track of small details that could make a big difference to your satisfaction. You might want to note the color and type of fabric you’d like the as a covering for your chair, as well as various accessories or options you’d like to include. You should also note lifestyle matters, such as whether you have a pet that is likely to spend a lot of time sitting with you in the chair or there are likely to be children around most of the time. Knowing these things will help the consultant make the best possible recommendation.
Be clear about your budget
If you have a definite budget for the purchase of the riser-recliner, let the consultant know about it from the beginning. This will save you a lot of time and potential disappointment by helping the consultant steer you to models that serve you and your budget best.
Is Funding Assistance Available?
In some cases funding assistance may be available through your local council or health service. This is a matter that you will need to discuss with your council or health service.