As we get older a hard thing to face is the fact that our mobility could deteriorate, whether these are hip problems, joint pain or tother health issues that could put us in risk of falling. There are many conditions that can affect our ability to move around when we get older. Thankfully we have solutions like canes, walkers and mobility scooters.
However, as we age there is a strong desire to remain in our homes. AARP conducted a study and found out that 90% of seniors hope to age in place, so if you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone. But the problem is, the architectural designs of our homes that we choose when we’re in our 40s and 50s don’t make it easy to do this: we buy homes with stairs, which pose a big challenge and can become a deadly element in your home if you were to lose your balance and fall down the stairs. Many times older adults research getting a stairlift installed in their home to make it more liveable as their mobility becomes a problem. In this article, we look at the benefits and features of various stairlifts on the market today and give you some tips to look out for to help you make your decision.
What is a Stair Lift?
To explain it in basic terms, a stair lift is a chair on a rail that runs up your staircase, transporting a senior between floors in their home safely.
There are multiple types of stairlifts, and a host of add-ons and special configurations, but the basics are the same across the board. Here are the different types of stairlifts on the market today.
Straight Rail Stairlifts
The most common kind of stair lift is a straight rail stair lift because it’s designed for the types of stairs that are most common in homes today. With a straight rail stair lift, the rail is mounted to a tread installed on your stairs by legs that are spaced a foot apart. Something to keep in mind is that straight rail stair lifts doesn’t rely on wall installation so you don’t have to worry about the structure of the home, they come with many options for different seats and power options, which we’ll get to later on.
Curved Rail Stair Lifts
It’s a misconception that stair lifts have to be in a straight line, this isn’t true, you can get a curved rail stair lift that will be custom built to fit your exact curves in your home, because of this, they can be more expensive.
Wheelchair or Platform Stair Lifts
Wheelchair and platform stairlifts aren’t as common in residential homes because they take up more room, these allow for a wheelchair to be transported upstairs. These lifts need more power and are more commonly seen in commercial buildings, hospitals, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities. These can cost a lot more compared to the more common residential stair lifts.
Outdoor Stair Lifts
You only rarely see these in residential properties, outdoor stairlifts have to weather-proofed and the motor housing has to be protected from the elements and as a result are more expensive. These can be built to accommodate wheelchairs, curved stair-cases, or straight stair-cases.
Is a Stair Lift the Right Choice for Me?
Now that we’ve broken down the general options of stairlifts available, you may be thinking if a stairlift is right for you. Before you make this decision, consider these things
What Are Your Mobility Issues?
The first thing to think about is, do you need a stairlift? Maybe the question seems obvious but the answer may not be. One thing to keep in mind when you think about getting a stairlift is not if you need it currently but what about in the future? If you’re an aging adult and you plan to remain in your home for as long as possible, you could think of a stairlift as a preventative measure to ensure that you don’t suffer any falls. If you were to fall and then get the stairlift installed, this is fine, but risking your health as your physical and mental capacities have decreased could be the difference between staying home or moving into assisted living situations.
Also if you are in the first stages of an injury and your doctor mentions to you that you may need a hip replacement within a few years, a stairlift would be a great preventative measure to take and reduce strain on your body before you develop more severe problems.
How Long Will You Need a Stair Lift?
Stairlifts could be installed preventatively, or after you suffer a fall or debilitating diagnosis. Stairlifts can also be temporary solutions, for example, if a senior had to have surgery or sustained a broken bone, it could be helpful to have a stairlift installed, but after a few weeks or months of recovery, the stairlift could just sit there unused, in this case, you might just rent one, of course, you’ll still pay for the installation and the rental of the device, but it could be cheaper in the long run.
Will a Stairlift Fit in My Home?
Remember that because stairlifts are custom made, they can fit all kinds of staircases – straight and curved. Stairlifts aren’t wall-mounted, so there doesn’t need to be a wall there to anchor the rail. Your biggest concern should be, that the width of your staircase. It needs to be at least 30 inches for the chair to comfortably move up and down the stairs with someone on-board. Most stairlifts have seats that fold up to keep the stairway clear and some can turn the corner at the top or bottom of the stairway to “hide” from view when you’re not using it.
What is the Process to Buy a Stairlift?
Now that we’ve explained the different types of stairlifts, here are some things to think about before you decide on a stairlift.
The first step you should take, is write down any questions or concerns that you might have. Thankfully stairlift dealers will provide a free in-house assessment for an estimate and evaluation. The evaluation should include pricing for units that match your budget.
Since no two staircases are the same, most times stairlifts will need to be custom designed to fit your space. Some dealers and manufacturers can even provide a 3-D rendering of what the staircase would actually look like in your home. They’ll show you how the timeline of installation would work and the various design phases, with emphasis on the features that you specify.
Once you select the company and the stairlift, and they’ve designed it, installation can begin. You may assume that you or a family member could install this, but take our advice, leave it up to a professional, they instal them everyday and will eliminate the headaches and unexpected events that could occur if you try the DIY route. When you choose the professional installer, they are responsible for making sure it’s installed correctly and safely.
How Much Does A Stairlift Cost?
There is no set price for stairlifts since they are built custom for your space, also your specific requirements and desires in features will vary and affect the price. Roughly speaking, a stairlift could cost you between $2,500 to $15,000. I know that’s a wide range, but there are a few things to look out for that will affect your estimate. Longer staircases will cost more than shorter ones of course, and curved stairlifts are even more expensive than straight rail ones. If your staircase is long as well as curved, you can expect to be on the high-end of that range.
One of the reasons that curved staircases are more expensive than straight rail stairlifts is because they require 2 motors. One that moves the chair, and one that adjusts the height of the chair to keep it level as it goes up and down the stairs.
These are other add-ons that you can get with your stairlift that would increase the cost. Here are some of the most popular additional features.
- Power Supply: You can choose between stairlifts with a rechargeable battery, these can be docked and can be charged at the top and the bottom of the stairs. The type of power the chairlift uses can impact price.
- Retractable Parts: Stairlifts can have retractable elements, for example, some have retractable seats, armrests, and footrests that keep them out of the way when you aren’t using them.
- Seat Belts and Harnesses: They have standard seat belts, but they can also be upgraded to harnesses to fold back or completely disappear from sight.
- Different Seat Types: You can choose seats that swivel to get on and off easier and other customizations like adjustable heights.
- Controls and Sensors: Stairlifts have gotten smarter and more high tech over the years which includes motion sensors that can detect obstacles on the stairs and stop the lift from proceeding, manual shut off buttons and/or remotes that can call the chair up or down.
How Do I Pay for a Stairlift?
Stairlifts can be a serious investment, especially for a senior on a fixed income. There are some Medicare Advantage plans that cut down some of the cost, also there are assistive technology programs available through the Veterans Affairs associations as well as non-profits like the United Cerebral Palsy Association.
Even though stairlifts can be a big decision and a reasonable cost, it can be a major tool to maintain your independence aging-in-place. Stairlifts give you the ability to enjoy all the floors of your home.
How much is it to install a stairlift?
Most times, installation will be included in the purchase of your stairlift, the price should be around $2,000 to $5,000.
How do I get rid of a stairlift?
Just like the installation, it’s best to leave removal of a stairlift to professionals. Trying to “do it yourself” could result in damaging your stairs, walls or fixtures.
Can stairlifts be fitted to any stairs?
For the most part, stairlifts can be designed and custom built to fit any staircase as long as there is room to fit a person and the chair through the entryway to move up and down the stairs, usually this is 30 inches.
What are the best stairlifts?
Some of the most reputable names in the industry are Harmer, Ameriglide, Improvement Center, Handicare, Stannah, 101 Mobility, Ascent, Acor, Bruno, and EHLS.
Do stairlifts use a lot of electricity?
Stairlifts use relatively low consumption because they only use power when they are in use.