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What Is The Best Bed Height For Seniors?

Generally speaking, what is most quoted as “the best bed height for seniors” is data by the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund which states that the recommended bed height is 20 to 23 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress.  BUT the truth is, that these recommendations are based on wheelchair heights, not necessarily that of older adults.

For this reason I believe that there is no “best bed height for seniors.”  Instead, what I say is that the height of the bed is relative to the person who is using that bed.  And note that this changes as the person gets older.

On average, we shrink about a quarter to a third of an inch per decade for every decade after 40. All told, men will get about 1.2 to 1.5 inches shorter, and women will lose up to 2 inches, by age 70. – nbcnews.com

That decline in inches can make a difference when it comes to getting in and out of bed, especially if other factors are also making it difficult such as arthritis, recovery from a stroke, cardiac problems, aching muscles, shortness of breath, etc.

Ideally, the safest and most comfortable bed height for seniors is a bed that the elderly user can back onto and easily sit down on the mattress while having both feet flat and securely on the ground.  So of course, the height of that particular bed will change depending on the height of the individual.

Is It Better To Have A High Bed Or A Low Bed?

For older adults, the answer is neither.  The answer is to have a bed that is easy to get in and out of.  Here are the reasons why…

Beds That Are Too High

  • If a bed is too high, then the user is forced to jump onto it which can be difficult to do and it could cause some injury
  • A stool could be used to get onto a high bed but again, that increases the risk of falling and/or causing injury
  • Most seniors have to urinate multiple times throughout the night – so getting in and out of a high bed increases the risk of injury during those midnight runs to the bathroom
  • Some seniors have problems with falling out of bed – which means falling from a higher platform can cause greater injury
  • However, the good news is that you do get the benefit of storage under the bed if you have some space there

Beds That Are Too Low

  • If a bed is too low, then the user is forced to strain their muscles when attempting to get in or out of the bed
  • It’s true that a lower bed is recommended if the user tends to fall out of the bed – but then that means that they will more than likely need some assistance to get in and out of the bed
  • And yes, you often do lose out on under the bed storage with the options for beds that are low to the ground

Ideally, as I stated earlier, the person should be able to sit on the bed and keep both of their feet flat and secured on the ground.  Whatever height that is for that particular person is the ideal height of the bed for them at that time in their life.

How To Lower A Bed For An Elderly Person

If you find that the bed you or a senior loved one is in is just too high for them – rest assured there are ways that you can lower that bed and make it safer.

  • If the bed is on a frame that can be adjusted and you just need to lower the bed a few inches then you can make any of the following adjustments:
    • for beds with wooden legs on the frame – cut the legs shorter.
    • for beds with wheels on the frame – remove the wheels and replace with something that can protect the flooring from the frame.  Casters like these might work.
    • if you want to leave the bed frame alone and your mattress sits on wooden slats you can have a carpenter come in and create slats that are indented downward which would lower the mattress / box spring but keeps the frame intact.
    • Note that all of these recommendations decrease the amount of storage space available under the bed.
  • Replace the frame altogether with one that is lower such as a platform frame like this one.  The reason I recommend platform frames like this is because they sit on a smaller platform which makes it less likely that the senior elder would bump their foot or toes up against any of the supports.  There are other designs and varieties of this type of bed – you can check them out here.

How To Raise A Bed For An Elderly Person

But if the bed for you or a senior loved one is too low and you need to raise it – there are a few things you can do as well.

  • You can use bed risers like these to raise the frame of the bed.  Some of these you can stack to fit your needs.
  • You can use a mattress topper on top of the existing mattress.  If you need even more height you can add a mattress topper below the mattress as well.  There are so many different types of toppers and I’ve tried several which I have found all to be good so here’s a link to the large variety of mattress toppers on Amazon that you can look through.  One note of caution is to avoid a 3 inch topper because they tend to be a bit difficult to get out of.  I have one on my guest room bed and my guests all tell me it’s like sleeping in a marshmallow.  So yes, it’s comfortable, but not the easiest to get out of!
  • Of course, you can also switch out the existing bed frame for a new, higher one as well.

Are Adjustable Beds Good For Seniors?

Another option for the project of getting an appropriate height bed is to purchase an adjustable bed.

So, in case you don’t know what an adjustable bed is – it’s basically a bed that sits on a platform that is multi-hinged which can be changed by the push of a button on a wired or wireless remote control device.  There are adjustable beds where only the head part of the bed can be raised and others where both the head and the foot areas can be raised.

A few years ago, furniture and mattress stores began selling these adjustable beds.  At first, it was odd to see this kind of bed which traditionally was only seen in hospitals and nursing homes.

But now that they have become so commonplace – it just seems like a wonderful idea to have a bed that can adjust to fit your body’s needs. 

You can check out the variety of adjustable beds here on  Amazon. 

Be sure to check the height of each adjustable bed.  Some are available with footing that can be adjusted to 3 different heights (like this one) – so check for that option.

There are multiple benefits to using an adjustable bed – especially for seniors.

  • No more struggling with pillows to raise your head so you can read or watch TV comfortably.
  • If you suffer from an acute back injury (or chronic back pain) raising the foot of the bed can help to relieve some of that pain.
  • If you suffer from circulation problems or leg swelling, acid reflux or heartburn, these issues may find some relief in using an adjustable bed.
  • Getting up from the bed when you are already sitting up is much easier than getting up from a flat mattress.
  • Same is true for laying down.  Sitting on the side of the bed and then swinging your legs over with your back going up against a raised head is much easier than getting onto a flat mattress.
  • Many adjustable beds come with a split mattress so one person could be sitting up at 20 degrees and the other person could be sitting up at 80 degrees or whatever they want.
  • The Glideaway bed frame shown here is interesting in that not only are you able to lift the head and the foot of the bed, but you are also able to tilt the bed frame completely so that the head of the bed is up.  This MAY make it easier for some seniors to get in and out of bed – if that person has any balance problems then perhaps this type of bed might not work so well.  It would be prudent to get the recommendation from a physical or occupational therapist. 

If you are looking for a bed that makes it easier to get in and out of (either for yourself or if you are a caregiver of a senior person) – you should also look into some of the products that we recommend that can make this task easier for everyone.  Check out our article on How To Safely Help An Elderly Person Get Out Of Bed.

Sleep To Stand Beds

A few older adults that I know tend to sleep more in their recliners than they do in their own beds.  The reason for this is because it’s easier to get in and out of.  The precaution I would give here is that it’s also easier to fall out of a recliner than it is to fall out of a bed.  So, using recliners and lift chairs (as I am about to mention here) can work well for some but not everyone.

I would recommend to get an evaluation by an occupational therapist to help you decide if these types of “beds” are safe for you or your senior loved one.

Okay, so on to the information about sleep to stand beds (i.e. Lift Chairs).

I remember a patient that I had who had suffered a fairly mild stroke.  He had a terrible time sleeping due to multiple factors.  One of the recommendations we made for him was to try out a reclining lift chair to sleep in. 

We worked with a local store to “rent” one of these chairs for our patient to try out for a maximum of 2 weeks.  We took him to the store to try out several lift chairs and after he chose one that he felt comfortable in, we had it delivered to the rehabilitation unit to begin our experiment.

The first night was a moderate success, not as good as we had hoped.  He just found it difficult to sleep in a space that was not as large as his bed (this made sense).  But he was willing to try it for several more nights. 

I am happy to report that after trying it for 3 nights, he was happy to tell us that he slept very well and in addition to that – he loved how easy it was to get out of bed!!

Today, there is are lift chairs that are actually meant to be used as a bed.  I have not tried them nor do I know anyone who has so I’m just not sure how good they are to recommend to you here. 

A true “sleep to stand bed” is this one – Pivot Turn Bed from MedMartOnline.com – it’s perfect for anyone who has great difficult getting into and out of bed.

Conclusion

Although there is no definitive “best bed height for seniors” that certainly does not mean that you can’t find the proper bed height for yourself or your senior loved one.  By simply finding the height that is appropriate for someone to sit down, with both feet flat and secured to the ground – very much like a proper height chair – you will then be able to find the proper bed and frame.

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