Stairlifts, also sometimes called chairlifts, are joined by homelifts, through-floor lifts, step lifts and stairclimbers as solutions to climbing stairs when mobility is impaired by age-related conditions such as arthritis, or by accident, illness or disability.
Rather than moving to a bungalow or confining yourself to one level of your house, there are stair climbing solutions that can give you access to all areas.
This page includes the latest developments in stairlifts, homelifts, wheelchair lifts, and stairclimbers.
The most straightforward situation is where you have a straight staircase, and the installation of a stairlift should, in most cases, be quick and easy. Depending on the model, the rail (which also houses any necessary wiring) is either attached to the wall or the stairs themselves.
Early stairlifts tended to run on mains electricity, but nowadays, most have integral batteries (DC power), so they are not affected by power cuts. Automatic recharging while the lift is parked at the top or bottom of the staircase will ensure that power doesn’t run out in mid-ascent.
Even if your staircase is rather narrow, you should be able to find a stair lift that can be used on it.
For stairs that curve at top or bottom, or turn midway, there are solutions in the form of curved stairlifts such as the one shown here, that are made to measure for your stairs, or perhaps a bridging platform which can be used to accommodate a curve at top or bottom of the flight.
Until recently, curved stairlifts were a bespoke product, which involved quite a long wait for the track to be manufactured to order. This has changed with the development of modular rails, which mean that curved stairlifts can now be installed much more quickly.
Perfect for anyone with stairs to negotiate to access their garden or cellar, an outdoor stairlift is specially designed to cope with the weather.
With a special finish to help resist the effects of wind and rain, outdoor stairlifts are available for short and long flights of steps, with the same safety features as indoor lifts.
With no external moving parts, and a failsafe braking system which ensures that the lift can’t descend in an uncontrolled way, outdoor stairlifts are available with remote control or joystick operation.
Innovative Stairlift Features
Stairlifts are fitted with many safety features, to ensure that you can use them with confidence. For example, pressure sensors ensure that the lift stops if any obstacle is encountered.
A seat that swivels when you reach the top of the stairs is another popular safety feature (right), allowing you to alight from the lift well away from the edge of the staircase.
If you find small controls difficult to manage, consider a lift with ergonomic controls, that respond to a simple nudge. Stairlift seats and footrests may be linked, so that pushing the seat up out of the way when it is not being used, does the same for the footrest – no bending down required.
Many people find it hard to move from sitting to standing, and vice versa. Arthritis and other conditions that cause stiffness and pain in the hips or knees may make a traditional seated lift difficult to use. The saddle seat design shown here makes it much easier to get up and down, with less flexing of knees or hips required.
An alternative solution, which is also effective where the staircase is particularly narrow and space is limited, could be a ‘Stand and Perch’ stairlift.
One development that has taken off in recent years is the home lift, a domestic version of the elevator we are familiar with in public buildings. The new generation of lifts for the home has been developed so that they can be installed with minimal disruption to the fabric of the building, speeding up the process, and making it less expensive. The lifts can be customised to fit in with the look of the home, and models are available that can carry two people at a time, or one person with a laundry basket, or pet dog, etc.
Lifts for wheelchair users
For wheelchair users, a throughfloor vertical lift (right) may be more convenient than a stairlift.
Although larger than a home lift, wheelchair lifts are still compact, and with their greater weight load and cab size can easily carry an extra person, bulky or heavy items, or a person with a walking frame.
Designed to be installed without the need for a load-bearing wall, this means that the choice of where to position the lift is greater, and installation is achieved very quickly – usually in a day or two.
There are also step lifts and platform lifts which enable wheelchairs to negotiate external steps – ramping is sometimes not feasible due to the length required in order to achieve the recommended gradient.
Lifts for external use will be made in a corrosion resistant finish, such as hot dipped galvanised or stainless steel. Emergency raising and lowering is included, so that no-one risks being stuck in the event of a power cut. For situations where vandalism or tampering is a risk, controls and lift mechanisms can be protected from damage.
Portable wheelchair lifts are now available, such as the one shown here, which are suitable where occasional wheelchair access is required and a permanent lift structure is not feasible. They require no on-site fixing, making them suitable where access is required urgently.
The lift is wheeled into position, elevated when the chair or scooter is on the platform, and wheeled away for storage afterwards. There are both manually-operated and battery-powered portable wheelchair lifts available; ideal for venues like schools, village halls, etc to lift a wheelchair user onto a stage or platform, for example.
For wheelchair users, an alternative approach to managing stairs is a powered stair climber.
There are two options: a dedicated stair climbing wheelchair, or a powered stair climber that is compatible with virtually any manual wheelchair. The latter is particularly useful for anyone who finds it hard to transfer out of their chair, whilst the former has been designed for ease of transfer, and has a very compact design so that it can be used even on narrow, winding staircases.
One carer can operate the stairclimber safely and with little physical effort.
Stairclimbers may be taken with you when you travel, so that stairs present no obstacle when away from home. They can facilitate respite care and holidays, as well as providing a longer term solution in properties where a fixed stairlift or home lift is not an option.