Seniors Regain Mobility Without Burdensome Oxygen Tanks


InogenOneG4_ Woman throwing frisbee

For seniors and people with COPD, small, lightweight portable oxygen concentrators are increasingly replacing large, bulky oxygen tanks to enhance independence and quality of life

For Sharon Hehn, a 75 year old homeowner in Edgewood, Kentucky, who started on Social Security a few years ago, one of the most pressing challenges was living with mobility loss due to the need for supplemental oxygen.

Sharon’s need for supplemental oxygen was related to a mild case of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more may have the disease without even knowing it, according to The American Lung Association.2 Unfortunately there is no cure, but the disease can be managed with medication, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and social support.

For the over 2.5 million people that require supplemental oxygen1, including many seniors, being tethered to a large, heavy oxygen tank can be a burden. Seniors and people with respiratory issues can become increasingly homebound and isolated due to the effort, planning and physical strength required to leave home with a tank.

According to Sharon, she has been on oxygen therapy for 14 months, since her doctor first prescribed the treatment to address her COPD.

However, she found that her traditional oxygen tanks (one large tank on wheels and two smaller tanks for going outside) not only restricted her mobility but also her buoyant personality. Previously, she took delight in walking her dog and being around horses.

When Sharon began using the tanks she soon became housebound due to her fear of the tanks running out of oxygen and the difficulty of traveling, which was tiring when the tanks had to be lifted, carried, changed, or refilled. As a result, she stopped doing the things she enjoyed, such as walking her dog each day and travelling to see her son and four grandchildren in New Jersey.

“The tanks were like an umbilical cord,” says Sharon. “I mentally boxed myself into my home and the walls felt like they were beginning to close in on me.”

Dissatisfied with the compromises to her mobility and quality of life that resulted from using oxygen tanks, she researched oxygen therapy solutions online where she learned about Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs). These compact devices convert air into concentrated oxygen by removing nitrogen using a special filter.

Inogenoneg4_hip bag_lifestyle -AA woman

Compared to traditional compressed gas oxygen tanks, which can weigh up to 18 lbs., battery powered POCs are much smaller, lighter, and operate more quietly.

Having compared POC options, Sharon selected and received a prescription from her doctor for the Inogen One G4. The rechargeable unit weighs less than three pounds and can be worn over the shoulder, as a hip bag or as a backpack. Her husband ordered it and surprised her with it as an “early Christmas gift.”

Although there are POCs that provide a continuous supply of oxygen, Sharon’s unit uses a pulse dose delivery method. With this approach, a small burst of oxygen is delivered every time the user inhales, matching the breathing pattern. The benefit is less oxygen is wasted.

After seven months using a traditional oxygen tank, the switch to a portable POC has restored a sense of normalcy to her life, allowing her to resume many of activities she enjoys.

Sharon now walks her dog every day, goes to restaurants, and enjoys visits to a local farm each weekend with her husband. Because of the POC’s small size, she even takes it to exercise class. Her next goal is to visit the racetrack with her husband and walk through the stables.

The portability of her POC also allows her to travel. Unlike tanks, which are not allowed on planes, POCs can be used as long as the model is FAA and TSA approved and can fit under a seat or in an overhead compartment.3 For Sharon, who is retired from over 34 years in the airline industry, this means she can more regularly visit her son’s family and grandchildren out of state.

Perhaps the biggest change in switching to a POC is how it has renewed her positive mental attitude.

“Since I’ve cut the ‘umbilical cord’ with my oxygen tank, I can do anything I want to now,” she concludes. “My wings are back.”



More information on portable oxygen concentrators can be found at

# # #


1 Inogen website.

2 The American Lung Association website.

3 Federal Aviation Administration. AC 120-95A – Portable Oxygen Concentrators Document Information.


Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *