Two-story homes are a common construction plan, but for seniors, they come with a safety hazard: stairs. Going up and down the stairs may become increasingly challenging for seniors who lack muscle tone, struggle with balance or have other mobility limitations. In a home with no first-floor bathing facilities or bedrooms, navigating the stairs is a necessity, which is where a stairlift comes into play.
A stairlift allows seniors to safely and quickly navigate a flight of stairs with no risk of falling. In older homes, with narrow staircases, fitting in a stairlift is more difficult, but there are manufacturers that make compact designs that fit into virtually any home. Read on for a look at some of the designs that work best in narrow spaces, typical costs and features available when shopping for a stairlift.
While designed primarily to accommodate those with a curving staircase, the Handicare Freecurve is a stairlift that works in virtually any home. When folded for storage, the seat has a profile of just 10.5 inches. The single-tube track design allows installation in a variety of layouts, including spiral staircases. A full range of safety features also makes the ride on the Handicare Freecurve comfortable and secure for users up to 275 pounds. Seniors buckle up at the top or bottom of the staircase, use the remote to start moving and sensors automatically stop if there’s something blocking the path of the lift chair.
While the Freecurve is not the most affordable option from Handicare, the customizable design allows more versatile installation. For homes that can accommodate a slightly wider profile and only need a straight lift, the 950 might also be an option. The 950 measures 11.25 inches and starts at a very affordable $2,580. The Freecurve offers a variety of upgrades and add-ons, including power seats that help with getting on and off for seniors that find bending to be more difficult. The joystick operation configures for right- or left-hand usage, and the lift comes in five colors to match most decors.
Stannah offers a boutique range of stairlifts that often hit the top of the price points for these mobility aids, but the Scout is a fairly affordable option that also fits into narrow spaces. While the folded depth is 16.5 inches, the low profile on the rail is what makes this version usable on narrow staircases. The rail sits just 6 inches from the wall, leaving the rest of the staircase open and available to those who don’t need to use a stairlift.
The seat on the base model swivels, allowing seniors to face a flat floor when getting on and off. Seat height is adjustable up to 26.5 inches, for those who need a higher seat to avoid deep knee bends. With a weight limit of up to 300 pounds, the Scout can accommodate most people, making it a mobility aid that fits into many homes. The starting price is $2,995, and some of the optional upgrades include features like a foldable rail. One of the reasons the Scout is a premium option for narrow staircases is the exceptional warranty that comes with the purchase.
This stairlift comes with a 10-year warranty on parts and the drivetrain, and it covers normal wear and tear. While other manufacturers offer similar timeframes, most only cover manufacturing defects, making this warranty a valuable addition to any Stannah product.
101 Mobility worked in partnership with Hamar to develop the 101 Pinnacle Straight Stairlift. 101 Mobility is a leading retailer for mobility aids, and this particular model is advertised as one of the most versatile installation options. It has the same 10.5-inch profile as the Handicare Freecurve in a straight stairlift. With a starting price of $3,500, it is the most affordable of the slim-line stairlift options, though it only works with straight staircases.
Some of the features of this model include a manually swivel seat, safety sensors and two remotes to call or send the lift. It has a maximum weight limit of 350 pounds — the highest in the narrow stair category. The warranty on the chair includes two years of general parts and 10 years on the drivetrain. 101 Mobility also includes a 1-year warranty on all its products that includes labor.
A stairlift is an inexpensive alternative to an elevator for seniors who can self-transfer from a wheelchair or standing into a seated position. Falling is a major risk for seniors, but a stairlift adds safety to one of the most dangerous activities in a home — climbing the stairs. Narrow stairwells can make it difficult to add mobility aids that still allow regular users to walk up and down the stairs. With the right installation, the stairwell footprint is very small, leaving plenty of room for people to walk up and down using the railing as the sole support.
These slimline options may take up as little as 6 inches of floor space, making the stairs completely passable, even when the lift is not in use. Foldable seats take up remarkably little room on a landing, letting seniors get around easily and with limited assistance.
Stairlifts for narrow staircases are usually more expensive than standard lifts. Unless your staircase is particularly small, it might be best to consider standard installations. Many straight stairlifts start at under $3,000, but for a narrow, slim design, prices often start at $3,500 and may exceed $12,000, depending on the specific configurations needed. Curved designs cost more since they must be custom built to fit every home. Most price quotes don’t include installation, so the total cost may be substantially higher.
Retailers may or may not offer to finance the purchase of a stairlift, but some government assistance programs may help mitigate the costs. Medicaid waiver programs and local senior housing assistance programs may pay to make home modifications that allow seniors to age in place. When shopping for a stairlift, be sure to line up the financing in advance and work with the retailer to find a local installer that meets all requirements for the warranty.