Mobility and Safety

The Stairs Chair: Navigating Stairs Made Easy

There are certain mobility issues that can’t be resolved just by using a cane or walker—notably navigating stairs. Unless the house is a ranch style, there is at least one flight of stairs—usually up to the bedroom—and quite possibly two, maybe down to a family room in the basement. Fall prevention or managing with bad knees often means avoiding stairs and that might even prompt a move to a single-story housing option.

One home modification that could allow for aging in place is the installation of a stairs chair. A stairs chair, or a lift for stairs, can help seniors reclaim their independence and provide a safe way to move about the home. This mechanical lift stair option easily blends in with any décor and the latest designs are streamlined, not intrusive. You sit on the chair part of the stair lift and activate it to ride along a track that runs parallel to the wall, up and down the length of the stairs. There are a variety of stairs chair models made to accommodate different staircases. There are chair stair lifts that are for straight staircases, designs with a chair for stairs that curve, a stair lift chair that’s more like a perch for narrow spaces (or when knees can’t bend at all) and even stairs lifts made for outdoor use when a ramp isn’t an option.

An installation professional will measure and advise you on the best choice. Prices range from a few thousand dollars up to $15,000. Curved lift stairs are the most expensive because they are custom made, but if you have a landing space at the turn in a staircase, you may be able to buy two straight stair lifts and still save a significant amount on the price of one curved-rail lift.

Stair Lift Considerations

When choosing a manufacturer and the best model for your home, look for the following: Safety features. Top of the line stairs chair models offer safeguards, such as sensors that detect an obstruction like a granchild’s toy left on the stairs, two types of braking systems (both electronic and mechanical) and rechargeable battery operation so that you will never be stranded should there be a power outage while using the stair lift. Smart design. The seat itself should be comfortable, yet fold up when not in use; in addition to an armrest control panel, having a separate remote control allows one user to send the stair lift back to a second person to use; smooth, quiet action and a seat that swivels add to the comfort factor. Installation experience. The company you choose should have a great track record that covers every aspect of installation, from proper measuring, consulting with you on the best options, problem-free and fast installation and terrific follow-up that includes at least a year’s warranty and the option to extend it for a longer period of time.

Stairs Chair Bells And Whistles

Features that add to performance and customer satisfaction include:

  • Installation over stairs, not on your wall to minimize disruption
  • Folding components to minimize obstruction for other family members
  • Long-life rechargeable battery operation for uninterrupted use
  • Smooth, quiet operation available through a rack and pinion drive with an overspeed governor to control the speed of the ride
  • A safety belt with a swivel chair for easy and safe use
  • A key switch that prevents children from using the lift and a sealed gear box to avoid any leaks on your stairs
  • Constant digital display of the chair lift’s status

Making The Decision

Far from being a distraction, streamlined stair lifts are designed to nearly fade into the woodwork, to use the old expression. And the difference one can make in the life of a senior with a mobility problem is invaluable.

- Written By

Julie Davis

Julie Davis is a food, health and wellness writer working within all print and digital formats. She has written over 50 books for readers of all ages, from best-selling women's interest titles in the areas of beauty, fitness and lifestyle to children's picture books. She currently writes for WebMD, the Cleveland Clinic Arthritis Adviser, the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club, Bottom Line Personal and Bottom Line Health. Her past work includes features for Walgreens “The Thread” blog, Everyday Health, Livestrong, Healthgrades and HealthDay where she also conceptualized and scripted a 1,000-video lifestyle series.