People use wheelchairs for a variety of reasons.
A person doesn’t have to be permanently disabled to benefit from the use of a wheelchair.
Lightweight wheelchairs are ideal for people who still use their limbs or for individuals who are experiencing a temporary injury.
For example, older people often have difficulty walking long distances.
They might be able to stand long enough to get from the door of their home to the door of their car but not able to take a walk around the grocery store or mall.
A lightweight chair is perfect for older people with limited mobility, as they can easily stow it in the trunk of their car and use it when traveling.
In some cases, having access to a lightweight wheelchair can help an older person maintain their independence.
If the chair is light enough for a person to lift and use on their own, they won’t need the assistance of a nurse or other caregiver.
Additionally, a person suffering a temporary injury, such as a broken leg or twisted ankle, can benefit from a lightweight wheelchair.
The chair is easy enough for a slightly injured person to maneuver and propel on their own.
Lightweight Wheelchair Materials
The material used for the frame of the wheelchair has the biggest effect on its overall weight.
Some metals weigh more than others. For example, many standard wheelchairs typically have a steel frame.
Steel might be a relatively sturdy metal.
But it’s also a heavy one. Standard steel wheelchairs can weigh 50 pounds or more.
Lightweight wheelchairs on the lower end of the cost spectrum tend to have an aluminum frame.
Aluminum is a softer metal than steel, meaning it often can’t hold as much regarding weight.
But it also tends to be relatively lightweight itself.
Aluminum wheelchairs tend to weigh between 25 and 40 pounds.
On the more expensive side, some wheelchairs feature titanium frames.
Titanium is a very sturdy and very lightweight metal.
Chairs with a titanium frame can weigh under 15 pounds.
The tradeoff is that those chairs tend to cost a lot more than other options.
Features to Look For
Aside from the frame materials, you want to watch for some other features when choosing a lightweight wheelchair.
Along with mobility, comfort should be a key concern when selecting a chair for a loved one.
Leg rests on a wheelchair can either be “swing-away” or “elevating.”
Swing-away leg rests often come standard and is helpful for people who have some use of their legs and might want to “walk” their chairs while sitting in them.
Elevating leg rests lets you lift the legs of the person seated in the chair and can be useful for those with blood flow issues.
Armrests typically come in two sizes: full length or desk length.
Desk-length armrests are ideal if you plan on pulling the chair up to a table or desk while eating or working.
Additionally, some chairs feature fixed armrests, which don’t move, while others have armrests that can flip down or that you can push out of the way.
The type of cushion a wheelchair has is particularly important if a person is going to spend hours at a time sitting in it.
Memory foam cushions tend to be of the highest quality, as they don’t flatten or compact with time.
Traditional foam cushions are cheaper but do wear down more quickly.
The size of the wheels determines who can control the chair.
If the user wants to self-propel the chair, large back wheels are a must.
A transport style with four smaller wheels can be an appropriate pick if someone else pushes the chair.
Some wheelchairs have more safety features than others.
To protect your loved one from harm, you’ll want to find a chair that has anti-tip guards on the back, brakes to keep the chair from rolling forward, and a seatbelt to prevent a person from slipping out of the seat.
Wheelchair Size and Weight Requirements
The best lightweight wheelchair will fit the person using it.
Not all chairs are the same size.
Before you invest in a chair, you want to measure the individual who will use it to make sure they can comfortably sit in it.
Although you can find standard wheelchairs with a seat width of 20 inches or more, lightweight wheelchairs tend to be smaller.
Many models have a seat width of 18 inches.
Some have narrow seats, measuring just 16 inches across.
The height of the seat determines whether a person can easily move the chair using their feet.
If a person usually walks him or herself in the chair, you’ll want to find a model that has a lower seat height.
But if the person plans on using the leg rest, a higher height is preferable.
A model with an adjustable seat height can be the best of both worlds, as it lets a person choose whether to drag the feet or let them dangle.
All wheelchairs have weight limits.
Lightweight chairs tend to hold less weight than conventional models.
For example, it’s common to find lightweight models that can hold up to 250 pounds.
Meanwhile, a standard chair can often hold up to 300 lbs., if not more.