Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Types of stairlift

Which stairlift suits you and your home?

There are different types of stairlift, as listed below. Most stairlifts have seats but some are for standing on - they have a slim pad that you lean against. If you have difficulty stepping off the lift, some designs give you level access to the landing.

If your stairs are too narrow for a stairlift, or if you are unable to use one for other reason, you'll need to consider alternatives. These include:

  • installing a vertical lift
  • rearranging your house so that you can live on one floor
     
Man on stairlift for straight stairs
Straight stairs
Woman on stairlift for curved stairs
Curved stairs
Man on stairlift for outdoor stairs
Outdoor stairlift

Lifts for straight stairs

Lifts for straight flights of stairs are cheaper. However, if you have two or more straight flights separated by landings, you may be able to install one continuous curved stairlift, rather than have two lifts fitted.

Lifts for curved stairs

This is the type of lift you'd need if your stairs are actually curved. But stairlift manufacturers and suppliers call any kind of lift that goes round a corner a 'lift for curved stairs'.

Lifts for use outdoors

Outdoor stairlifts are similar to indoor models but tougher and waterproof, so they can be used to get you into the garden or up your front steps.

Lifts with seats

Seats are reasonably sized and you'll have no trouble carrying a walking stick, handbag or other small items. But if you use a walking frame or another bulky aid, it'll be too big to carry easily. You'll need to have two walking frames or aids - one for upstairs, and one for downstairs use.

Handicare stairlift for perching onStanding lifts

Lifts that you stand or 'perch' on are the answer if you can't sit or stand easily - they're often used by people who have trouble bending their knees. They're slimmer than lifts with seats, and so can be fitted on narrower stairs.

To use a standing lift, you need to be able to stand for the minute or so it takes the lift to climb the stairs. If you get dizzy or collapse sometimes, a standing lift is probably not for you. There also needs to be enough headroom on the stairway. This is usually worked out as your height when standing plus around 12" (30cm).

Stairlift showing movable rail in front of doorwayLifts which can pass a doorway

In some houses, the lift will need to pass in front of a door - this often happens at the foot of the stairs. You can get around this by fitting a hinged track that lifts up when the stairlift is not being used (see picture, right). Check that there's some mechanism to make lifting the track more easy. Remember to raise it at night, so no one trips over it.

Alternatively go for a powered stairlift that will slot automatically into place and lift out again when you use or park the lift. If you're very heavy, check with the supplier that the hinge will be strong enough. Some Minivator models (supplied by Handicare) use a different system - the track extends and withdraws automatically as the seat moves.

Last updated: November 2016


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