While for many people, using the stairs is a regular activity, which often provides a nice bit of exercise, for the elderly, climbing the stairs is not always easy. Seniors are far more likely to experience a fall when using the stairs and, even without the risk of a fall, many find them simply difficult to use. There are more than a few different ways that safety can be increased for the elderly, but for many using a stairlift is the most cost effective means of improving safety at home. Even though stairlifts can significantly improve safety, not to mention the accessibility, in the home, they do not always work well with every type of staircase.
Stairlifts have been around for quite some time now and are known by a few different names, like stair chairs or stairway lifts. The design varies a bit depending on the manufacturer, but the basic functionality is the same, involving a system that carries the user up the stairs, so that they do not need to walk. The name stair chair became popular, because the majority of stairlifts use a chair that carries the user up the stairway and, although this is the most common and safest type of stairlift, there are a few types of platform lifts.
The platform lifts are generally used in conjunction with a wheelchair or other mobility vehicle, but a smaller standing stairlift, called a perch lift, is also available. In most stairlifts that are used to move wheelchairs up the stairs, the entire unit is rather large. As a result, these types of stairlifts are most often seen in commercial settings, such as a school or other public area. They are typically designed with wheelchair users in mind, including grab bars around the unit, but most also include a small fold-out chair.
Selecting a stairlift often comes down to a few different factors, with cost being one of the biggest obstacles. Unlike a personal elevator, stairlift kits are available that can be retro-fitted on many types of staircases for a fraction of the cost and without significant home improvement costs. A straight staircase offers the least expensive option and, as you can see, installing a stairlift kit for a straight staircase is not terribly difficult. The basic process involves securing a piece of aluminum track to the stairs, which will usually come in a few sections, then putting the chair or platform together and attaching it to the track. While the average do-it-yourselfer can easily install this type of stairlift, a non-straight staircase sometimes requires a special type of lifting device!
Truly curved staircases are not very common. The majority of people with a non-straight staircase have square like bends, typically one or more 90 degree bends, sometimes with a platform. This can present a few difficulties and at minimum means a special, read more expensive, type of stairlift kit is needed. Some of the popular straight stairlift resellers, like Ameriglide, will attempt to convince you that installing two straight stairlifts is a good idea, but this means the user will have to get up and move to a new stairlift, sometimes for only a step or two. Instead, it is better, although sometimes a little more expensive to find a do-it-yourself kit that is designed to work with this sort of bend in the staircase. With that said, those who have a truly curved staircase, with circular bends, will likely need a custom built stairlift that can be very expensive and ends up only working on that specific staircase, resulting in a reduced resale value.
For those who have difficulty walking, and seniors are not the only to fall into this group, a stairlift is one way that accessibility can be improved at home. These sorts of lifting aids can not only make the home safer, but also easier to use and for many standard stairways, there are inexpensive do it yourself options available.