Classifying Power-Wheelchair Mobility Patterns in Older Adults

Amol M Karmarkar,MS1-3 ; Diane M Collins,PhD1-3 ; Rory A Cooper, PhD1-3

1 Human Engineering Research Laboratories, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, PA
2 Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, University of Pittsburgh
3 Engineering Research Center on Quality of Life Technology (QoLT), Pittsburgh, PA


Despite known benefits of power wheelchair use in improving mobility; the overall participation of older adults using power wheelchairs, within nursing facilities, is limited. Six residents from two nursing facilities, who were independent in operating their power wheelchairs, were enrolled in this study. Wheelchair caster dataloggers were used for collecting data on power wheelchair use. The dataloggers were placed on each resident’s wheelchair for one month. Data were reduced and classified using K-means cluster analysis. The results indicate the existence of various clusters, representing wheelchair mobility patterns. Of these clusters, ‘distance traveled using the power wheelchair’ was the most significant, whereas the cluster: ‘driving speed of the power wheelchair’ was the least significant contributory factor. Future research, focusing on the extent of use of power wheelchairs, and safety related to their use, could better define power wheelchair prescription guidelines for older adults living in skilled nursing facilities.


Power Wheelchair, Older Adults, Wheelchair Use


The study was funded in part by the NSF Engineering Research Center on Quality of Life Technology (Grant # EEC-0540865) VA Center for Excellence in Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering (Grant# B3142C), and Human Engineering Research Laboratories Competitive Pilot Project Fund (Grant # H0001). The authors would like to acknowledge administrators, therapists, and nursing staff at the participating nursing homes for their cooperation and accommodation of this research protocol at their facilities.

Amol M. Karmarkar, 7180 Highland Drive building 4, 2nd floor, East Wing, 151R1-H Pittsburgh, PA, (412)-954-5312