Choosing the Best Stairlift for Seniors, Part 2

Gordon Raney, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and the co-owner/operator (along with wife, Jennifer Raney) of 101 Mobility® franchises in Tulsa and Dallas, shared his expertise about choosing the best stairlift in this prior post. He talked about the cost, how the lift would attach to your staircase, and more.

In today’s article, we’ll learn from Raney about the differences between curved and straight stairlifts, and various power options:

What is the difference between curved and straight stairlifts (and what works best)?

Raney: For a majority of staircases, a straight rail stairlift should work appropriately.  This scenario assumes that there is no turn in the stairs and that all stairs are of the approximate same height and tread width.

Should a staircase turn in any direction, have irregular-shaped stairs, or have any intermediate flat landing areas, a curved rail stairlift would be needed.

Curved rail stairlifts become a custom order job as no two curved staircases are the same.  Because of this, detailed measurements need to be taken of the stairs, which will then be given to the manufacturer to custom build a stairlift rail specifically to fit the unique needs of an individual’s staircase. This process obviously adds additional time (approximately 1 month from start to finish) and the stairlift costs can range from $8k – $12K for a reputable branded curved stairlift.

Is there a more cost-effective alternative to a curved stairlift?

Raney: Given the cost and production lead time involved with a curved stairlift, we often get asked if two separate straight rail lifts could be an option.  There are several things to consider in order to make an accurate determination:

First, you must determine whether the landing area where the transfer will be made from one lift to the other is an appropriate size. Remember, these lifts will extend beyond the top and bottom steps to which they are attached.

Another important question to ask is this: is there enough room on the stair landing to be able to have both chairs on it at the same time while giving the individual the appropriate amount of room to make the transfer safely? Generally, the landing platform for a 90-degree turn in the staircase does not provide enough room for this. A 180-degree turn has a much larger (rectangular) landing area and could potentially be a safe option to install two straight stairlifts.

The most difficult part for many of our customers is finding a comfortable and safe way to appropriately swivel the chair away from the stairs upon exiting the lift. Having two stairlifts obviously increases the number of times the customer will need to perform this operation. I always ask customers to not only consider the present but also to think about 5 to 10 years down the road: do they believe they will continue to be able to make multiple stairlift transfers? If the transfers are difficult, then a curved option that will take the individual all the way to the top landing should be considered rather than two straight stairlifts.

What types of power options are available for stairlifts? 

Raney: Several manufacturers include additional “power options” that can be added to certain base models of stairlifts. These options include power-folding footrests, power swivel seat options, and even power-folding rails. These options can remove some of the obstacles an individual may face with using a stairlift and make the entire experience more enjoyable.

Learn more from Gordon Raney about measurements and lift modifications in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

Browse our selection of stairlifts here.