Woman reclining in garden

How to choose the right independent living products

  • Use our tool to find the products that are right for you, whether it's mobility scooters or riser recliner chairs
  • Find out which products won't suit you so you can avoid wasting money
  • Get advice on where to go for more information

There is now a huge range of products available that can help you live independently at home and make your life easier and more comfortable. 

Our tool will help you choose the ones that are right for you or your relative and avoid the ones that aren't. Simply choose the category you are interested in then click on the statement that most applies to you.

If you're a Which? member you can download our exclusive guide 'Helping loved ones in later life', which you can access via our member guides section. Alternatively, head straight to our reviews of mobility scooters, riser recliner chairs, easy to use home and tech products and blood pressure monitors to find out how the products we've tested performed.

1) I want to make good food choices

The following option could help you:

Advice on healthy eating in later life

Your eating habits might change as you age but you still need to eat a varied diet to stay healthy. You don't need as many calories but you do need the same amount of vitamins and minerals.

Right for you if: You need some help with knowing what to eat and whether or not you should take supplements.

Think twice if: You have a health condition that could be affected by the food you eat, as you need specific advice.


Which? reviews
Visit our nutritional analysis of popular ready meals from leading supermarket and specialist home delivery companies, comparing the fat, saturated fat and salt content.

Which? advice
Existing medical conditions and medication can affect appetite but it's important to eat nutrient-dense foods to get everything you need to stay healthy.

As you age, certain nutrients become more important in your diet and you need to limit your intake of others. Visit our advice on what supplements and nutrients older people regularly take and whether they are necessary or not.

Shopping for one or two can bring challenges, especially with so many special offers and multibuys tempting you. Take a look at our tips on reducing food waste and our list of store cupboard essentials.

We also look at different meal options available to those who are unable to cook for themselves, ranging from traditional meals on wheels services, having ready meals delivered or visiting luncheon clubs.

2) I'm having difficulty with my hearing

The following option could help you:

Hearing aids

If you're noticing a decline in your hearing, you may be thinking about getting hearing aids - either from the NHS or privately. We can help you if you're not sure which type is right for you.

Right for you if: You have permanent hearing difficulties and are ready to explore which are the best and worst hearing aid providers.

Think twice if: Your hearing problem is temporary - for example, because you have wax in your ears. Visit our hearing loss advice for more information.


Which? reviews
We've surveyed 407 Which? members about their NHS or private hearing aids to help you make a decision about which hearing aid provider to choose.

Which? advice
Visit our comprehensive advice on getting the best hearing aid for you - from understanding your hearing loss, through to choosing the right type of hearing aids and getting them fitted and cared for.

3) I'd like to monitor my blood pressure

The following option could help you:

Blood pressure monitors

Using a home blood pressure monitor can help you spot any action needed to prevent more serious medical problems, but you'll need a monitor that takes accurate readings.

Right for you if: You want to be able to monitor your blood pressure at home to build up a picture over time.

Think twice if: You think monitoring your blood pressure more often will make you more anxious about it.


Which? reviews
We've tested a wide range of blood pressure monitors and found six Best Buy blood pressure monitors and five Don't Buy blood pressure monitors.

Which? advice
We explain what blood pressure monitor features you can get - from data averaging to a PC connection - and what you can expect for your money.

1) I'm having difficulty getting out and about

The following options could help you:

Walking equipment

If you are having mobility problems, there is a wide range of equipment that can help. This includes walking sticks, walking frames and wheeled walkers - some of which have additional features to help you.

Right for you if: You need a little extra confidence with balance, or you want to reduce effort or minimise pain when you are walking.

Think twice if: You have a changing medical need or require something to bear your weight, as you may need a professional assessment.


Which? advice
Visit our advice on choosing and using walking sticks and walking frames and wheeled walkers. Bear in mind that walking equipment needs to be measured to fit you.

A mobility scooter

A mobility scooter is a great option to take the effort out of walking. There are different types available - from road to pavement scooters, and ones that go in your car boot.

Right for you if: You have good sitting balance, adequate eyesight, a good memory and can step on and off.

Think twice if: You have problems with anything listed left, or if you have a medical condition that may change.


Which? reviews
We have tested portable mobility scooters so you can choose from the Best Buy mobility scooters and mobility scooter features that are right for you. Also, visit our advice on different types of mobility scooter and what you need to know before you buy - for example, what you need to consider about storage and battery charging.

Which? advice
It's important to try mobility scooters before you buy to make sure you get the right one to meet your long-term needs.

If you don't want to buy, you can also consider options such as hiring one or using a mobility scheme (now available at many shopping centres for short-term loans).

You can also lease one through the Motability scheme using your government-funded mobility allowance.

In some cases a wheelchair may be a better option to meet your needs.

A wheelchair

A wheelchair can help you continue to lead an active social life with disabilities or a health condition, and if you need more support than walking equipment can give you.

Right for you if: Your walking is severely affected.

Think twice if: You’re not sure which type you need.


Which? advice
There are three main groups of wheelchairs available to buy:

1. Push chairs or transit chairs
2. Self-propelling chairs or manual chairs
3. Powered wheelchairs

Bear in mind that indoor chairs need to be more compact to be manouevrable around the home.

If you decide on a wheelchair go to our comprehensive advice on choosing a wheelchair.

Wheelchairs are available - depending on an assessment - through the NHS, the Motability scheme, or for hire through schemes such as Shopmobility. Visit our guide to getting a wheelchair for more information.

2) I'm having difficulty moving about in my home

The following options could help you:

Walking equipment

If you are having mobility problems, there is a wide range of equipment that can help. This includes walking sticks, walking frames and wheeled walkers - some of which have additional features to help you.

Right for you if: You need a little extra confidence with balance, or you want to reduce effort or minimise pain when you are walking.

Think twice if: You have a changing medical need or require something to bear your weight, as you may need a professional assessment.


Which? advice
Visit our advice on choosing and using walking sticks and walking frames and wheeled walkers. Bear in mind that walking equipment needs to be measured to fit you.

Adaptations to your home, such as rails

If you want to improve access inside and outside your home, see Which? Elderly Care for comprehensive advice, including on equipment such as stair rails, or visit our advice on grab rails for the bathroom.

A stairlift

A stairlift is a mechanical device for lifting people (and sometimes wheelchairs) up and down staircases. They allow you to keep using your whole house when stairs become difficult.

Right for you if: You struggle with stairs - maybe because of a medical condition, hip replacement or pain. You have the flexibility to get on and off the seat and use the controls and footrest.

Think twice if: You’re not sure if you’ll be able to get on and off or use the controls, whether it would be better to keep using your joints, or whether one would accommodate your weight or suit your stairs.


Which? advice
Motorised domestic stairlifts are relatively straightforward devices, though become more complicated if you have a curved or unusually shaped staircase. Most staircases run on automatically recharging batteries. Others are mains-powered. Visit our guide to choosing the right stairlift for you.

Stairlifts are not right for every condition or lifestyle and it is better to find this out before comitting to an expensive purchase. Plus, some staircases might not be able to accommodate a stairlift. An occupational therapist can initially consider your circumstances and home, assess whether a stairlift would best suit your needs and advise on the best features or alternative options.

A wheelchair

A wheelchair can help you continue to lead an active social life with disabilities or a health condition, and if you need more support than walking equipment can give you.

Right for you if: Your walking is severely affected.

Think twice if: You’re not sure which type you need.


Which? advice
There are three main groups of wheelchairs available to buy:

1. Push chairs or transit chairs
2. Self-propelling chairs or manual chairs
3. Powered wheelchairs

Bear in mind that indoor chairs need to be more compact to be manouevrable around the home.

If you decide on a wheelchair go to our comprehensive advice on choosing a wheelchair.

Wheelchairs are available - depending on an assessment - through the NHS, the Motability scheme, or for hire through schemes such as Shopmobility. Visit our guide to getting a wheelchair for more information.


 

Important information

If you have any doubts about whether mobility equipment will meet your needs and keep you safe, an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, who can advise on anything from equipment choices and possible adaptations to your home to the right footwear, will ensure you have the right solution.

You could also visit a disabled living centre to view and try equipment options.

If you have been feeling unsteady or have been falling, a medical consultation with your GP is important to rule out any underlying health changes or adjustments to medication.

We also have advice on falls and preventing them on Which? Elderly Care and information on technological adaptations to your home, such as key safes and automatic lighting.

1) I need advice on how to make my home life easier and more comfortable

The following options could help you:

A riser recliner chair

Riser recliners are electric chairs (mains-operated) with moving seats, backs and footrests. They are operated with handheld controls that allow you to recline into a sitting position and be lifted to a standing position.

Right for you if: You want to change your position in your chair and get in and out independently. You want more comfort - for example, from raising your legs.

Think twice if: You’ve got complex medical needs - such as a serious back problem - want to sleep in your chair for a long time, or don’t have much room for it.


Which? reviews
Visit our riser recliner chair reviews to read the results of our testing and see the Best Buys.

Which? advice
There is a huge range of armchairs available. The first step is understanding what size armchair will best match your body shape, which will also ensure you can get more comfortable.

Use our riser recliner chair choosing guide to find a chair to suit your height and shape.

Make sure you take your time, do your research and consider a professional assessment so that the chair is the right fit for you. Try out the chairs before buying, either at a specialist shop or by having several home demonstrations.

Then, make sure the chair has the correct specifications for you in terms of motor type, features and size.

It may be useful to get tailored independent advice from a health professional such as an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, especially if you have complex health issues. Visit Which? Elderly Care for more information.

Easy to use home appliances and tech gadgets

When you’re buying kitchen and household appliances - from kettles to washing machines to digital radios - features that make them easy to use can be vital for getting the right one for you.

Right for you if: You’ve got reduced strength or dexterity in your hands, painful joints, difficulty with your sight or hearing or just want easy to use control panels and features to make your life simpler.

Think twice if: Your needs are more around memory, you have a disability or you have significant sensory disabilities or difficulties, such as hearing loss. In these cases seek more specialist advice.


Which? reviews
We have tested and selected washing machines, vacuum cleaners, kettles, cordless phones, simple mobile phones, digital radios, TVs and more that are easy to use.

We also give you advice on what to look for if you have physical difficulties such as reduced strength or grip in your hands or reduced sight or hearing.

We let you know the pros and cons of the easiest to use products we've selected so you can choose the best for you.

2) I need advice on staying safe in my home

The following options could help you:

Assistive technology

‘Assistive technology’ can help people with memory or mobility problems to continue to live independently and remain in their home for longer than might previously have been possible.

This often works through a system of sensors that monitor your activity and detect when there is a problem. For instance, sensors can detect if you have had a fall, and alert a help centre or caregiver, or technology can help you remember to take medication or turn off bath taps. And there are devices to keep your house safe and secure, from fingerprint-based locks to key safes.


Right for you if: You want to stay living at home but need help with memory problems or want to ensure you get support as quickly as possible in an emergency.

Think twice if: You see this as the only solution. This technology is often part of a bigger overall support plan, and it needs careful tailoring to get it right for you.


Which? advice
This area had been developing in leaps and bounds in recent years and there are now many options to keep you safe and living independently at home - including ones linked to a call centre (telecare), or that alert a carer or family member if there is a problem, and standalone equipment.

Visit our comprehensive advice on the types of assistive technology that could help you.

To find out which type of technology devices will be best for you, you may benefit from an expert assessment. This will work out which system will suit your specific needs and design an individual package.

Bathing equipment

A good soak in the bath can be very soothing, but it may present a challenge to get in and out. One of the first things people become aware of when looking into bathing equipment is that there is a huge range of products.

There are now bathing aids available to cater for almost every need, from equipment designed for people with reduced mobility who still want to bathe independently, to products for those with more challenging physical difficulties who want or need a complete replacement for their current bath.


Right for you if: Your mobility and strength have changed but you don’t want to give up your daily bath. You're happy to do some research to get the right solution.

Think twice if: You have more complex or rapidly changing needs - an expert assessment can stop you buying something that isn’t safe or right for you.


Which? advice
Which? has comprehensive advice on selecting the right bathing equipment for you - whether it’s a bath board or seat, bath lift or hoist, or you want to adapt your bathroom suite and choose fixtures.

It can be difficult to decide on the best options to suit your needs with so many available. An assessment with an occupational therapist (OT) can help you pinpoint your bathing needs and clarify which equipment will be safe and right for you, both now and in the longer term, to make the bathroom safer for your needs.

We also tell you about financing your bathroom adaptations and the different grants and assistance that could be available to you.

3) I am having difficulty moving about in my home

The following options could help you:

Walking equipment

If you are having mobility problems, there is a wide range of equipment that can help. This includes walking sticks, walking frames and wheeled walkers - some of which have additional features to help you.

Right for you if: You need a little extra confidence with balance, or you want to reduce effort or minimise pain when you are walking.

Think twice if: You have a changing medical need or require something to bear your weight, as you may need a professional assessment.


Which? advice
Visit our advice on choosing and using walking sticks and walking frames and wheeled walkers. Bear in mind that walking equipment needs to be measured to fit you.

A stairlift

A stairlift is a mechanical device for lifting people (and sometimes wheelchairs) up and down staircases. They allow you to keep using your whole house when stairs become difficult.

Right for you if: You struggle with stairs - maybe because of a medical condition, hip replacement or pain. You have the flexibility to get on and off the seat and use the controls and footrest.

Think twice if: You’re not sure if you’ll be able to get on and off or use the controls, whether it would be better to keep using your joints, or whether one would accommodate your weight or suit your stairs.


Which? advice
Motorised domestic stairlifts are relatively straightforward devices, though become more complicated if you have a curved or unusually shaped staircase. Most staircases run on automatically recharging batteries. Others are mains-powered. Visit our guide to choosing the right stairlift for you.

Stairlifts are not right for every condition or lifestyle and it is better to find this out before comitting to an expensive purchase. Plus, some staircases might not be able to accommodate a stairlift. An occupational therapist can initially consider your circumstances and home, assess whether a stairlift would best suit your needs and advise on the best features or alternative options.

Adaptations to your home, such as rails

If you want to improve access inside and outside your home, see Which? Elderly Care for comprehensive advice, including on equipment such as stair rails, or visit our advice on grab rails for the bathroom.

4) I am generally fine at home but interested in appliances that are easy to use

The following option could help you:

Easy to use home appliances and tech gadgets

When you’re buying kitchen and household appliances - from kettles to washing machines to digital radios - features that make them easy to use can be vital for getting the right one for you.

Right for you if: You’ve got reduced strength or dexterity in your hands, painful joints, difficulty with your sight or hearing or just want easy to use control panels and features to make your life simpler.

Think twice if: Your needs are more around memory, you have a disability or you have significant sensory disabilities or difficulties, such as hearing loss. In these cases seek more specialist advice.


Which? reviews
We have tested and selected washing machines, vacuum cleaners, kettles, cordless phones, simple mobile phones, digital radios, TVs and more that are easy to use.

We also give you advice on what to look for if you have physical difficulties such as reduced strength or grip in your hands or reduced sight or hearing.

We let you know the pros and cons of the easiest to use products we've selected so you can choose the best for you.


 

Important information

If you have any doubts about whether aids or adaptations will meet your needs and keep you safe in your home, an assessment by an occupational therapist or physiotherapist who can advise further will ensure you have the right solution.

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