Should we consider a chair lift for stairs?

by Mark

My mother and father have lived in the same house for over 20 years. They want to live there for as long as they can. They are both in their 80's, relatively healthy and are just starting to use a cane or 4 wheel walker outside.

Their house is 3 stories - lower floor (laundry, rec room), main floor (living room, kitchen), and top floor (bedrooms, bathroom). They are starting to have difficulty going up and down the stairs.

What do you recommend? Should we consider a chair lift for stairs? Should they consider moving to a condo or senior housing facility? They really want to stay at home.

REPLY from
Thank you for your question, Mark. Your parents are definitely not alone in wanting to remain in their own home for as long as possible - most seniors rank this high on their priority list.

Stairs are one of the main concerns seniors and their families have, especially if all the rooms they need access to are not on the same floor.

For your parents, it seems this is worth looking at closer as they are just beginning to have a decrease in mobility (ie. walking, climbing stairs) and sounds like they are relatively healthy.

Senior housing can be expensive so it can often be more affordable to modify the existing house to suit the seniors needs than to move to a senior housing facility.

This is especially true if they own the home and do not need daily support with self care, meals, etc.

There are several ways to make their home safer and better suited to them:

1) Live on the main floor - Can they move their bedroom to the main floor where they also have their bathroom (with bath/shower), kitchen, living room and main entrance? Can laundry be moved up to the main level or can family/hired help do their laundry for them?

2) Chair lift for stairs - These are excellent products that allow anyone to sit down on a chair and move between floors. They attach to the wall and stairs. There are a variety of manufacturers and models. They can be used on straight as well as curved staircases. For more information, Chair Lift for Stairs.

3) Entrance - You did not mention the main entrance but assuming it is not level entry (ie. no stairs), you have options:

  • Ramp - This is a great option if the height (number of stairs) is not too high. A rough guideline is 12 feet length for every foot of height you need.
  • Porch lift - It is a basic outdoor lift that can accommodate a wheelchair if/when it is needed.
  • Other entrances - Is there an entrance (preferably level entry) to the first floor? You could then have a chair lift for stairs inside to the main floor. They could then access both levels if freezer, laundry is on first floor.

4) Residential elevators - Depending on the house design, they are a viable option. It depends on the model and installation/home renovations needed. Definitely worth looking into and seeing what it would cost. The advantage over a chair lift for stairs is that you can stay in a wheelchair to go up/down and it can be used to move groceries, etc. from floor to floor.

There are a variety of ways to allow seniors who have difficulty with stairs to remain living in their existing home.

It would also be a good idea to take a look at the following articles for information on:
Fall Prevention in the Elderly
Home Safety for Elderly

Good luck!

Thank you,

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