If you’re a senior looking for a vacuum cleaner, think about your needs and your abilities first, and the high-tech wizardry later.
Vacuum cleaners for seniors canister Photo courtesy of Miele Canada"

You may think it’s a no-brainer, but lots of people head out shopping for a vacuum cleaner or start browsing online, giddy with excitement about all the new available features out there.

Only when they bring their purchase home do they discover that it’s too heavy for them to drag up the stairs, that they can’t bend over far enough to change the settings on the vacuum head, or that their spouse with vision problems can’t see the cord and they should have bought a cordless model.

Many of our friends still buy appliances the same way they did 20 years ago, when they were spry 60-something-year-olds.

They go in without a plan, and have a vague feeling about brands and what they want, and maybe some of the features, but they don’t really think through how their physical abilities might be augmented or aggravated from their choice.

But a vacuum cleaner is a fairly serious purchase, and considering how often you will use it, and how long you will have it for, It makes sense to think your purchase through.

Upright Vacuum for seniors

Upright Vacuum

With that in mind, here are 10 things to think about when buying a vacuum cleaner for seniors

  1. How much are you able to lift without straining yourself? If you have stairs in your home you may want to consider a lightweight canister  or stick vacuum.
    • Even if your canister vacuum is on the heavier side, you can usually take the components apart, making them easy to cary separately. Make sure to test this out before you bring a vacuum home.
    • Stick vacuums are usually pretty light, though you may have to compromise on cleaning power. Try to decide which aspect is more important to you before you begin shopping.
  2. Do you, or does anyone in your home have vision or balance problems? A cordless machine that eliminates what may be a major tripping hazard may be the way to go.
    • There are many cordless stick vacuum options that are great for light cleaning. Heavier duty machines are also available. Be aware that cordless machines often go for a premium. But, it’s impossible to put a price on safety.
      robot vacuum for seniors

      Photo courtesy of eufy by Anker Innovations

  3. Is bending over a pain? Stay away from models where you need to wrap the cord around hooks along the side or back of the machine. Also avoid machines that make you bend over to adjust the beater head setting from hard floor to carpet.
    • A canister style vacuum can help with this. You can easily lift the head to adjust the settings in a comfortable position. You can also find canister vacuums for under 20lbs, if you put some time into researching, and most vacuums of this type have a retractable cord, so you don’t have to bend over to wind it up.
    • If you have severe mobility issues, a robot vacuum might be the right choice for you. They really are clever- all you have to do is program them and walk awayThey can handle a variety of surfaces, and they simply go about their business – rolling around furniture legs, floor lamps, even extension cords – while you go on with your day (note: a robot vacuum may not be appropriate if someone in the home has dementia, has a sight impairment or is otherwise at risk of tripping over it).
  4. Are you still able to shift the furniture to get under it? If not, you’ll want a machine that can easily get under things (usually this has to do with the height of the head) and is easy to maneuver. Believe it or not, some machines are a lot easier to “drive around” than others.
    • Make sure to test drive any vacuum before you purchase it. Small retailers and department stores may be the place to shop, rather than online or at big box stores.
    • Also, measure the power head of any vacuum you’re considering, and compare it to the lowest piece of furniture you have. If the head wouldn’t fit under the chair or couch in question, it likely isn’t the right fit for you.
  5. Are you allergic to dust? Bagless machines are great because you save on buying bags, but they can be pretty messy to clean out.
    • Not having to buy replacement bags is cheaper. But dumping the dirt from a bagless container is often messier. If you have allergies, it’s probably best to stick with a bag. Not to mention, bagged vacuums often have a higher capacity than bagless.
  6. Do you have asthma? You may find a vacuum with a HEPA or hospital – rated filter makes a real difference.
    • If you have asthma, it would be wise to look for a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter – the highest level of filtration in vacuum cleaners. Some non-HEPA filters can also do the job. One German-made brand uses something called S-Class Hospital-Grade filtration, which it describes as excellent for allergy and asthma sufferers.
      Dyson stick type vacuum for seniors

      Dyson stick type vacuum

  7. Where are you going to store it? You may have downsized since you last bought a vacuum cleaner, and need something more compact.
    • A canister vacuum can be quite bulky. If you’re really jammed for space, consider a stick vacuum or robotic model.
      accessible controls on vacuum for seniors

      Photo courtesy of Miele Canada

  8. Do you have the dexterity to deal with the controls and with the various attachments that come with many machines? And, do you even need them?
    • If you have arthritis in your hands, you may find a vacuum with a foot button much easier to turn on and off. You might also want to look for vacuums that have fewer settings, and easy to change controls.
    • Look for something that doesn’t have a lot of finicky bits and pieces, and ideally, find something that has automated options.
  9. Are you able to perform basic maintenance yourself?
    • How often have you had to open up the vacuum head of your old machine to put the belt back in place, clean out the intake or untangle the roller?
    • If you plan on still doing this basic maintenance yourself then you’ll want to know how easy it is to take the beater head, in particular, apart.   
  10. Do you have a pet? Some breeds of cats and dogs are veritable shedding machines. Make sure the machines you’re looking at have a power head and tools that you’ve found helpful in the past for cleaning up after them.
    • If you have a pet, a stick vacuum is likely not the tool for you. Consider a canister style vacuum, or if the shedding is quite serious, you may have to resort to an upright.

There you have them – my top 10 things to think about when buying a vacuum cleaner for seniors

Just a few more considerations Make sure you understand what the manufacturer’s warranty offers you,and be sure you can return the machine for a full refund if it simply doesn’t work the way you expected it to in your home.

Also, some brands and models of vacuum cleaners that you may see online are not available in Canada, so make sure you double check before setting your heart on a particular model.

Also – and I can’t stress this enough – go test out the machines you’re considering.

Now, there is a surprising amount to know about purchasing the right vacuum cleaner, and I certainly haven’t covered all of it. But, at least you’re now armed with the basics if you’re looking for a vacuum cleaner that best suits a person of our age.Good luck with your decision.

Happy vacuuming!


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