Objective: Define the range of community seating heights available for use by older adults; test whether raising chair height by small increments facilitates chair-rise performance; and heighten physician and furniture industry awareness of discrepancies that may exist between actual and acceptable chair heights for older adults.
Design: Phase 1: Survey of commercially available chair heights. Phase 2: Cross-sectional descriptive study of chair-rise ability.
Setting: Phase 1: Local furniture stores, physician offices, hospital waiting areas, and nursing homes. Phase 2: Postural Control Lab.
Participants: Twenty-two volunteers (nursing home residents and community dwellers).
Exclusion criteria: inability to stand independently and inability to bear full weight on the lower extremities in the standing position.
Measurements: Chair rise success at six heights (17-22 inches), self-reported difficulty (visual analogue scale), change in minimum hip angle and maximum shoulder angle during rise, using motion analysis.
Results: Phase 1: Community chair heights ranged from 12 to 18 inches, with a mean of 16.3 in physician offices, 16.6 in nursing homes, 16.4 in hospitals, 17.3 in "kitchens" and 15 in "living rooms." Phase 2: As chair height increased from 17 to 22 inches, chair rise effort decreased, as shown by near doubling of percent successful rises, decline in mean self-reported difficulty score, increase in mean minimum hip angle, and decrease in mean maximum shoulder angle.
Conclusions: Seating height may need to be more closely scrutinized in areas frequented by frail elders. Augmentation of seat height by small increments facilitates chair rise performance.