Installing a stair lift in your home is a great way to increase the number of years you can live at home, even if you or a loved one have health limitations that make it difficult to go up and down stairs.
I was out with an elderly woman last week who was looking to buy a new home. She already had bad knees, and had to take the stairs slowly. One of the things she was looking for was whether her new property would accommodate a master on the main level (if it didn't already have one) and a stair lift on the stairs.
I thought she might just want to look at one-level homes, but every home she looked at had a staircase in it. One home had a lovely Y-shaped staircase featured in the living room that split off in two directions. One home had a rickety old staircase leading to the finished basement, and one home had a plain old fashioned 2-level staircase that went to the upstairs. My client told me that this wasn't exactly what she was looking for and said she would "know it when she saw it." It had been hard for her to figure out online whether the homes she was interested in would accommodate a stair lift because most realtors don't feature the stairs in their MLS photos.
This client gave me a bit of an education about what it takes to install a stair lift. Basically, she was looking for a long, straight run of stairs from the first to the second floor. We actually found it in one of the new construction homes we looked at, so they are certainly out there. Stairlifts can be installed on other types of staircases, of course, but as with everything, complication adds expense.
If you are building or buying a home that you want to grow old in, it's a good idea to contemplate in advance how the home can be modified to suit your needs when you are older. Some things - like wide hallways that can accommodate wheelchairs - are nice features you might want to have anyway.
Other things, like grab bars in the bath tub, are easy to add on later if they become necessary.
What's not as easy to plan for is if you will need wheelchair access to upstairs rooms of the house. Even if you're not in a wheelchair, going up and down the stairs can be a challenge for many seniors.
Installing A Stair Lift May Be The Perfect Solution
A stair lift runs on a track that is installed on the side of the stairs and plugged into the wall for power. Your stairs must be against the wall or have a reinforced railing to accommodate the full weight of a person on a seat, and the track along the wall. A stair lift can help you bring groceries and laundry up and down the stairs, too. Pretty much anything you can carry, provided you don't exceed the safe weight limit for the chair lift.
Although they can be pricey to install, many seniors are so happy about the idea of having the ability to remain in their own homes as they age, they are more than willing to pay the price to have their home upgraded to accommodate their changing mobility needs.
Emily J. Cressey is a licensed real estate agent and investor in Seattle, Washington. If you are in the market for housing for seniors or disabled people, please click here to learn more about what's involved in installing a stair lift in your home.