Best Seat Cushion for Elderly People

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Best Seat Cushion for Elderly People

As people age, their movement slows down, which means they might have difficulty doing tasks that require them to move around, like cleaning up after themselves or going grocery shopping. Sometimes having just one hand injury can slow someone so much that it becomes difficult for them! *

As a general rule, natural latex seat cushions designed for elderly people are the best seat cushions when it comes to comfort, resiliency, and cooling. Seniors will significantly benefit from natural latex foam because it relieves pressure on major joint areas such as the hips, ischial tuberosities, and coccyx.

After treating elderly patients with chronic back pain for decades (and I still practice daily!), I trained as an ergonomic adviser, creating ergonomic seat cushions, published a book on the subject, successful Kickstarter seating solution, and spoke about this topic on national television. I will recommend how to find the best support cushion for the elderly. My experience with countless numbers of patients has taught me five significant points to consider so you can be most comfortable. I’ll explain each one of these.

The market is flooded with many brands and seat cushions for senior citizens, but deciding which is best for you can be challenging. Always follow the instructions carefully, or you may not be satisfied with what you purchased! In this article, I will also explain which type is most appropriate for your needs to ensure that you make the right decision the first time around.

Elderly People Need a Good Seat Cushion

Our muscles tire and become sore from working against gravity, so we must sit up straight. It also means that we might start slouching or leaning forward in the chair, but if you sit upright with your back against it, this won’t happen!

The importance of sitting upright when working at a desk can be summed up as follows: 

  • Less fatigue from having to use more muscle power by lifting oneself into an upright position; 
  • Not falling asleep while reading small print (leading to possible eye strain); 
  • No decreased blood flow through one’s head due to excessive bending over for extended periods. 
  • Sitting properly will result in increased alertness and productivity throughout one day.
  • Poor posture position like slouching over or leaning forward at the waistline causes poor circulation due to pressure being put on one side, causing blood vessels to constrict and weaken. 
  • An uncomfortable seat cushion can interfere with a person’s ability to reduce stress, negatively affecting their health.

What to Look For in a Seat Cushion for the Elderly

There are health benefits to using elderly seat cushions, but these claims may have been exaggerated. Many manufacturers claim their seats relieve back and hip pain or even arthritis; however, little to no research supports this. For example: although many use the term “orthopedic” when referring to an elderly person’s seating needs – orthopedics is defined as dealing with problems of muscles, bones, joints, and tendons for them not only to be free of disease-related symptoms such as chronic musculoskeletal disorders (CMSD) – there has never actually been any standard set by doctors so what exactly is considered “orthopedic?”

To avoid marketing jargon, here are the main factors a person should consider when selecting a suitable seat cushion for the elderly:

Best Support Cushion for the Elderly

The importance of a support cushion for the elderly cannot be overstated! Comfy seats are essential! You might not think about it until you’re sitting on a seat that doesn’t feel right. But if your cushion is too thin or hard, the wrong shape for your bottom, you’ll suddenly notice how uncomfortable it feels and want something better. *

seat cushion foam density chart

For elderly people, the foam used in a seat cushion plays a crucial role in determining how comfortable and long-lasting the cushion will be. It is primarily the foam’s quality that determines the foam cushion’s lifespan. A foam’s density (weight) is often considered a measure of its quality. Generally, the higher the weight, the better the foam. The foam in seat cushions comes in several types: memory foams, natural latex foams, and Gel foams.

Memory Foam Cushions for Heavy People (2/5) ☆☆☆★★

In the beginning, astronauts used memory foam as protection in space. The safest way for humans to protect themselves is by using products made from memory foam, which absorbs shock. However, the space agency ceased using memory foam because of off-gassing concerns.

In my experiments, I discovered that a memory foam cushion designed for 250 pounds could withstand a density of five pounds. Typically, memory foam cushioned items do not have a density greater than 1.5 pounds. This is why picking carefully is essential.  

A memory foam cushion generally needs at least 5 lbs of layers to be durable and last as long as possible. However, you may find difficulty finding a memory foam cushion with a core foam density of 2.5 lb or higher. 

Natural latex foam is also an option, typically four pounds or more in density. Even though this cushion should last over time, getting one with additional density is not cheap. It should support weights of over 200 pounds, even though natural latex may have a bounce.

Disclaimer: I have experience in the mattress industry and product design with many memory foams. An expert has diagnosed that the fire retardants and chemicals cause my son’s skin condition in many memory foam products.

For elderly people, memory foam should not be used as a seat cushion:

  • Our tests found that memory foam didn’t perform as expected. The responsiveness of a cushion is determined by its response to pressure or motion. A responsive cushion will naturally move and shift so you won’t experience back pain
  • People tend to feel uncomfortable when seated on memory foam due to its tendency to retain heat.
  • Polyurethane is derived from oil refineries as a byproduct.
  • Compounds such as polyurethane, formaldehyde, antimony trioxide, and petrochemicals are frequently added to memory foam.
  • A change in 2004 required memory foam mattresses to be fireproof and more toxic
  • Low-priced or too-cheap foam made of polyurethane or memory foam is susceptible to collapsing. Occasionally, the pelvis of some people sinks so profoundly into hard wheels that it immediately touches the seat after sitting down. Bottoming out is a potentially uncomfortable experience.  
  • Memory foam cushions accumulate heat and moisture when sat upon for long periods. Sweating results from increased skin temperature, which causes the skin to rise. As part of the body’s response, the area is cooled off.
  • Airflow is crucial to ensuring the comfort of your cushion. Despite some companies focusing on maximizing airflow, this is not the norm.

Latex Foam Cushions for Elderly People (5/5) ★★★★★

best support seat cushion for elderly

The compression factor measures the pressure required to compress a layer of foam. * A seat cushion’s measurement is crucial because it tells you exactly how much resistance will be present when you press down on the cushion, where you’ll find out precisely what type of feeling you’ll have with each seat. Natural latex foam has about 2.6 times memory foam density in terms of compression modulus, a technical term! *

For elderly people, you should use a firm base foam and place an inch or softer foam on top. Firmer base foam bends inward instead of absorbing weight during compression. It is not common to find this layering in natural latex cushions because their firmness generally develops gradually. When seats are layered, the surface feels firmer on top, while the heavier portions sit more profound on the cushion. 

Further, latex and foam have a property called ‘absorption,’ which allows them to absorb energy. Latex is about 25% more resilient than rubber in absorbing energy. *

Resistant materials bounce back from drops more easily than absorbent materials. Unlike other foams, natural latex foam is more springy. View my video below about the absorption and resilience of natural latex. 

The point elastic nature of natural latex makes it the most durable foam. The material’s ability to quickly and easily assume a shape makes it perfect for bodysuits since it can easily be contoured around any desired body type!

In choosing foam seat cushions for elderly people, you need to take into consideration these factors:

  • Features a pressure-relieving effect. By creating a deep cradle, they disperse pressure across the cushion, relieving pressure. 
  • Alignment and posture qualities. With a seat cushion, you can let your gluteal muscles sink into it while the heavier areas like your coccyx or ischial tuberosities remain out. In this way, your hips will always be aligned when seated.

Natural Latex is the Best Foam Chair Cushions for Elderly People

In recent years, luxury seat cushion manufacturers have increasingly used it for its shape-retention capabilities and ability to maintain comfort levels even after heavy use.

The density of Latex varies by gauge, which affects performance, durability, temperature regulation, and cost. With our guide, you can better understand these differences and make an informed decision before you buy!

Different Densities of Natural Latex Foam

A density, again, is simply the weight per unit volume. A seat cushion made from natural latex has a density of kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m3). The density ranges for latex foam are presented below, along with those for polyurethane and memory foam.

Foam made from natural latex typically has a higher density than other foam types. Since the densities of each material differ significantly, comparing them based on charts is unlikely to yield accurate results, as one type might not even appear on the charts! Identifying which materials are used in a cushion is the best way to determine how comfortable it will be.

Our analysis of various seating products and materials shows that natural latex is the best material. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Natural latex seat cushions do more than relax and restore muscles and ligaments; they also may improve circulation.  
  • Natural latex seats contain no chemical additives, unlike memory foam seats
  • Natural latex may reduce pressure points and align the spine.
  • Its unique cushioning prevents you from sinking too deeply into natural latex seats while also allowing you to apply bodyweight to them. 
  • As older trees age, sustainable latex farming harvests sap from healthy Hevea Brasiliensis trees.
  • I have always been passionate about Chiropractic and ergonomics, and natural latex allows me to develop customized products.  
  • The comfort of petrochemical memory foams is lower than natural latex foams.
  • A burial of natural latex cushion material causes it to decompose within a year.  
  • When a working environment is healthy, latex can prevent bacteria, molds, and dust mites from growing. Natural latex eliminates fungi and bacteria as well. 

Gel Foam Cushions for Elderly People

If you are looking for cooling seat cushions, the term gel foam may be confusing. There are three types of gel foams:

  • Foam/gel combinations
  • Gel-filled bladders
  • Gel-like honeycombs

Gel Cushion and Memory Foam Cushion Combinations (1/5) ☆☆☆☆★

memory foam seat cushion with gel cooling cushion

Memory foam serves as a base, and silicone gel acts as an infusion. You can find online seating cushions that cradle your bottom while providing not too much support.  

 Cushions like these are marketed as being ‘unique and cooling.’ Its packaging is the only thing that sets it apart. That’s it! These cushions did not meet our patients’ cooling, comfort, and support expectations.  

Gel Bladder Cushions (3/5) ☆☆★★★

gel bladder seat cushion for wheelchair

Usually, it is filled with pure silicone gel or a gel bladder used in wheelchairs and heavy-duty cushions. Either high-resilience foam or EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam is layered over gel bladders. An extra layer of foam will make a cushion stiffer and firmer.

These cushions provide an initial cooling effect. However, the cooling effect is quickly lost due to the irregular air circulation within the EVA membranes. It may prevent pressure sores but does not provide sufficient support to ensure the patient is comfortable.

 Gel Honeycomb Cushions (3/5) ☆☆★★★

gel seat cushion with red cross on top of it

To make these cushions, silicone-based foam is used. Unlike memory foam, these cushions allow free-flowing air to keep you cool rather than overheating. In the long run, silica keeps its shape, making it durable and resilient only if you are incredibly light. 

This cushion was poorly suited to comfort, support, and satisfaction. Honeycomb-shaped cushions bottomed out quickly, so they were the most complained about.

A chair’s seat is its most crucial component. When it’s not comfortable, you won’t be motivated to use your desk for tasks such as reading or typing on your computer keyboard. This is something to consider if you are looking at honeycomb-type seat cushions.

Conclusion

So, if you are looking for a comfortable seat cushion to help relieve pressure on your joints, I highly recommend a natural latex foam cushion. Not only do they provide excellent support and comfort, but they also allow your skin to breathe so you don’t get too hot and sweaty.

If you have any other questions about finding the best seat cushion for elderly people or those with joint pain, please contact one of my colleagues at the clinic or me. We would be happy to help!

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Brienza, D.M. and Karg, P.E., 1998. Seat cushion optimization: a comparison of interface pressure and tissue stiffness characteristics for spinal cord injured and elderly patients. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation79(4), pp.388-394.
  2. Timm, M. and Samuelsson, K., 2016. Wheelchair seating: A study on the healthy elderly. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy23(6), pp.458-466.
  3. Ellies, E.E., 1939. The development of foamed-latex cushioning. SAE Transactions, pp.93-96.
  4. Malanon, S., Dechkunakorn, S., Anuwongnukroh, N., Sea-Oui, P., Thaptong, P. and Wicha, W., 2020. Mechanical Properties of Experimental Non-Latex Orthodontic Elastic Bands. In Applied Mechanics and Materials (Vol. 897, pp. 185-189). Trans Tech Publications Ltd.
  5. Prasopdee, T., Shah, D.U. and Smitthipong, W., 2021. Approaches toward High Resilience Rubber Foams: Morphology–Mechanics–Thermodynamics Relationships. Macromolecular Materials and Engineering306(10), p.2100337.
**As a service to our readers, Axial Chairs provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.
Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Founder

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

 

Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort. With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life. I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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