6/20/22 9:44 p.m.

Usual story. Older in-Laws who are starting to have mobility issues while living in a traditional 2 story house.  Entertainment downstairs and living sleeping stuff upstairs.  Building sleeping quarters and bath downstairs not really an option.


The fear is that sooner or later one of them is not going to be able to manage the stairs and I know for a fact that I will get pointed at as the person who has to come up with a solution. So I am thinking to start pushing for a stair-lift sooner rather than later.


What is there to know about these things? 

Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
6/20/22 10:00 p.m.

My neighbor had one put in after she fell and broke her shoulder last year.  While she was in rehab, we did a few things to allow her to continue to live at home alone.  One was a stair lift.  It was expensive, but pretty easy.  A guy came, took some measurements, and came back a week later to install it.  Aside from some screw holes, it's reversible.  It's battery-powered and seems well-made.  I would assume at best it is a middle-tier lift, however I am basing that on knowledge other than experience with stair lifts.

6/20/22 11:07 p.m.

Battery power? That I did not expect.

Tell me that these do not need regular inspections like escalators and elevators.

mtn MegaDork
6/20/22 11:21 p.m.

My MIL has MS. She has had one for about 8 years now. 

They're stupidly expensive until you start figuring the price of moving or renovating. Surprisingly little damage done to the home. I think they paid about $4,000 in 2015 or 2016 dollars. Medicaid or VA benefits may cover some of the cost, if you're in the US and those are available. 

You can often find them used, very cheap. They're simple. If it is a straight run, it is pretty easy. Curve is more difficult. I'd just pay to have it done though. Battery system is similar to our sump pump backup. It has never been utilized. I've never heard of a chair malfunctioning, at least back when I did research on it. They do not need inspections. 

Ok, now for the advice you didn't ask for: I'm not a fan of these. It is the inexpensive option. But the best option is to move into a home with a bed/bath on the first floor. It takes 60 seconds to go up/down. It is in the way at the top or bottom for others. My FIL can't even use it with his bum knee, because he can't get his leg bent enough. But that is probably just my animosity towards our situation talking. 

Anyway, sooner rather than later is right. Do it now; a fall on the stairs could mean that the lift is no longer an option and they have to move to assisted living. 

6/20/22 11:40 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

The knee thing might be relevant. Going to see if the vendors have in house demo stuff to try out.


pheller UltimaDork
6/21/22 1:30 a.m.

I installed these for a bit. 

They can be 120v with battery backup. I think the ones I installed ran off house power until power was cut then they could cycle a few times just on battery. Might be just battery - it's been awhile.

Common complaint was that they are slow - but we'd always joke - "wanna race?" Most folks who need them can't climb stairs on their own. Occasionally we'd install them as helping hands - people might walk alongside an empty chair or send a basket of laundry upstairs in the chair while the use the steps. 

We had lots of customers who got them paid for - either through Medicare or their  insurance. 

While they weren't a replacement for a single story house, they gave people time to resituate their lives. Most customers only use the chair lifts for 3-8 years. They either renovated a first floor, moved, or died. 

6/21/22 7:43 a.m.

In reply to pheller :

Might be worth looking into any form of insurance aid. Not that they can not afford the system, but knowing them they also tend to have good insurance coverage. It is Canada, so no direct comparisons to US.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/21/22 8:21 a.m.

My grandparents used one for a few years towards the end, and I'd call them a band aid more than a perfect solution. Slow, clumsy, and requires getting on/off the chair next to a drop. My grandmother had to walk up one step to get to hers, and of course she fell and broke her wrist one day. They moved downstairs from then on.


Datsun310Guy MegaDork
6/21/22 8:29 a.m.

My cousin needed 2 shorter ones for a bilevel home for his mom.   Craigslist.  One was cheap cause he had to remove it.   

Sadly they only used them a month or so then back to Craigslist.  Instant sale.

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/21/22 8:54 a.m.

Ironic that this topic just popped up. My fiancée's father is having increasing issues walking let alone up/down stairs. He currently lives part-time(snowbird) here in PA in a 2-story home but while visiting him in FL over Easter, the discussion of moving to a ranch house or building a smaller one-story house came up. When we returned to PA, we went and looked at his current house to asses whether a "stair lift" would be possible in his stairway. It is do-able but will be more complex due to a large landing 1/2 way up. We went back to FL a few weeks later to visit and discussed the "stair lift" idea. As luck would have it, the house 2 doors away from us was up for sale but just had a price reduction. It is a house that he has always admired to look of, is a ranch w/finished basement and set-up well inside for them. When we returned home, I contacted the realtor for a walk-through. The short version of the story is that he is moving to the new house, will be living on one floor, but I am still considering having a stair-lift installed down to the basement. It's a straight run of 17 stairs so install should be pretty straight forward. Closing on the house is in a few weeks and I'm sure the lift will go in a few weeks later. Will update with installation pictures and a report/review of the function and costs. 

Apis Mellifera
Apis Mellifera Dork
6/21/22 8:55 a.m.

Regarding battery power and safety - the one my neighbor has runs on a battery, but is connected to 120v.  The battery is charged either at the top or at the bottom of the run when the chair stops.  There is a light to indicate that the chair is docked and charging and a battery power percent indicator.  There's various limit switches to make sure you not only operate it safely, but also to ensure the battery gets charged.  Regarding safety, I thought the seat was too small and too slick.  I rode it and felt like one of those crouching gargoyles perched at the top of a tall building, leaned out over the pavement  far below.  Not comfortable, but most old ladies aren't 6'-3".

frenchyd MegaDork
6/21/22 9:30 a.m.

My wife is in that stage right now.  She had a very nice spacious office upstairs that she personalized with a Barbie doll display case and  other hobbies accessible or displayed. Plus a nice view overlooking the lake. 
     Two weeks ago she moved her office equipment down to the main floor.   Rather than buying a stair lift or even a built in elevator.   She also canceled the trip to Germany to ride the Danube River boat.    Reality is a real kick in the stomach

mtn MegaDork
6/21/22 9:37 a.m.

I want to point out how many people are saying these are a band aid. 

When my parents were considering one, I told them not to. I saw 3 outcomes:

  • They don't need it yet, so even if they had it, they wouldn't use it. They'd be annoyed with it in the way. They'd be annoyed using it. And when it was time to use it, it would be too late - they wouldn't realize it until they'd fallen.
  • They get it and use it... Until they can't, because the transfer is too difficult. And then they'd have to move into a place without it, and at that point, it would be an independent/assisted living or nursing facility. 
  • They move to a place with a first-floor bedroom and bathroom, and they stay there until they either pass away or need to move into an independent/assisted living or nursing facility. The difference between this and the prior bullet point is that it legitimately could be a 5 year difference. You're not going to move from a house to another house at the age of 80 or 85. Just not going to happen, even if you could get another 5 years if your house was smaller and more manageable. So get into the smaller house before all of this becomes an issue. 


I've seen it numerous times in my family. Get the longer term/permanent solution done sooner rather than later, because it will get you more independence in the long run. 

6/21/22 9:39 a.m.

Glad I started this thread as I will need to be having some kind of conversations with the In Laws and probably going to get shoved in front of the buying process if I know how this works.


Their house  and the grounds are a huge part of who they are, and moving would leave them adrift no matter where they moved. Both closer to 90 than 80, so I know that the world is going to change someday in one second and this might buy  time to deal with any crisis in the short term. 

mtn MegaDork
6/21/22 9:41 a.m.

Ah, if they're already over 85, lift makes a lot of sense. 

6/21/22 11:19 a.m.

Princess Auto is having a sale on winches and the kid next door has a toboggan.  HHMmmmm?!

clutchsmoke UltraDork
6/21/22 12:27 p.m.
NOHOME said:

Princess Auto is having a sale on winches and the kid next door has a toboggan.  HHMmmmm?!

Honestly that solution sounds safer than sitting in a chair. 

frenchyd MegaDork
6/21/22 7:22 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

It really depends on them. If it's the neighborhood ( house) they raised their family in.  The familiar is a comfort and life enriching.   If they move to new but better suited to their current condition it's only going to be a short term solution until assisted living.  
    Do the math.  Selling is a 10% cost,  yeh I know discounted sales commission, blah, blah, blah.   But this won't be up to code and the market demands that change and update.  Etc etc etc. 10% is going to be on the light side.  
 $300,000 house?   Figure it's going to cost $30,000 to move. I can get all 3 levels with a new elevator for $30,000.   Elevators add to market value unlike stair lifts. 
    Keep them in the familiar as long as possible.  House too big to clean?   Check around for stay at home moms to help clean and maybe freeze a few of their favorite meals.   

6/21/22 8:32 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

When I bought my first and maybe last house, the agent told me that moving nest door for the same as I sold would cost me 20k. So I should look around and see what I can do for 20k that would make me happy to stay. I have lived by that advice.

As to the IL house value, aim higher, much higher, in today's real estate world. They could go into a high end  independent living retirement community like my parents did, but I don't see it. And I do kinda see their point, because I will be the same.

frenchyd MegaDork
6/21/22 9:27 p.m.

Well said.  I'm currently selling my wife's mother's home.  Between paint and new carpet  ( nothing wrong with either that I can see) a big chunk of that 10% is already going to be spent. 

Advan046 UberDork
6/21/22 11:12 p.m.

Both of my older parents have basically expressed that they will just deal with the stairs until they die or have to go to assisted living. Even if it means falling down the stairs. IDK I am conflicted but they seem certain of this choice. 

I almost think a stuff lift would better for them. Laundry, toilet paper packages, luggage, coats, etc.

Purple Frog (Forum Supporter)
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
6/22/22 10:36 a.m.

I was project leader a few months ago for one of my customers to install a Stiltz system.  Designed in Great Britain, really quality piece.

Not a cheap alternative.  Large enough to roll in with a wheelchair.  The customers really love it and it has changed their life for the better.  They love that they can stay in their "forever" home on the farm.  They can easily bring groceries and such up from the garage they park in.

Really at easy install after I did a few structure changes to floor system.  Stiltz crew installed in in less than one day.

One plus is that it is open and airy, so not scary for folks with claustrophobia.  

pheller UltimaDork
6/22/22 2:19 p.m.

Ironically, the company I worked for who installed chairlifts (Bruno) also installed vertical lifts (Bruno) and a few in-home residential elevators. 

The price difference between the lift and the elevator was pretty large though. We're talking $3k-$5 for a chair lift vs $25k-$50k for an elevator. 

If you've got an exposed lofted 2nd floor, there are some scenarios where a platform lift could work - as long the lift is less than 10ft. 

I remember installing a platform lift for some folks who had indoor access to their 2nd floor, but instead added a 2nd-story deck with a door. They lived on their first floor, but wanted occasional access to the 2nd floor. I guess their indoor stairwell was too narrow for a chair lift and they needed a wheelchair upstairs anyway, so they just went without the outdoor option. It was a strange, but it worked for them. 

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