Getting around the house can be a challenge for seniors with limited mobility. Stairs are particularly difficult for seniors with arthritis, balance issues or missing limbs. While wheelchairs can make getting around on flat ground much easier for seniors whose ability to walk is restricted or absent, even a short flight of stairs can effectively limit a senior’s independence. Stairlifts help seniors get around these issues by providing a powered boost up and down the stairs in a safe, comfortable seat that is mounted to a secure rail system.
Stairlifts come in several configurations. The most simple design consists of a chair that folds out for a rider who can walk, but who needs help up and down the stairs. For seniors who are capable of standing and turning without restrictions, these are good enough. For seniors in wheelchairs, however, an inclined lift that can accommodate the chair is needed. Finding the best stairlift for seniors in wheelchairs calls for a comparison between heavy-duty models with platform bases and strong electric motors. Ideally, the wheelchair lift should be large enough to safely lift an adult in a wheelchair and compact enough to fold out of the way for others to access the stairs. Price is also a consideration, especially for seniors who intend to finance their own purchase, rather than wait for approval from their insurance providers.
This guide takes a look at some of the best stairlifts for seniors in wheelchairs. The models discussed all have some feature that makes them stand out as a good choice for seniors with limited mobility, whether that’s total confinement to a wheelchair or a less strict limitation that only interferes with stair climbing. The guide’s purpose is to help seniors and their loved ones start their research into wheelchair-capable stairlifts, identify the most important features for most users and make a smart decision about the best stairlift for them.
Savaria takes a commanding position as one of the best stairlifts for seniors in wheelchairs because of the excellent suite of features the company puts into its basic lift model. The base model of Savaria lift costs as little as $2,750 plus installation, and it boasts features other companies only offer on premium lift models. Savaria lifts have a weight capacity of 350 pounds, which is significantly more than most lifts’ 250- or 300-pound limits, and their powerful electric motors have the torque to smoothly lift an adult carrying a collapsed wheelchair. The vinyl or synthetic leather seat has a simple, one-handed seat belt, and adjustable armrests fold out for improved comfort and safety. The lift’s parts are covered by Savaria’s comprehensive 3-year warranty.
One limitation of the Savaria base model is that wheelchairs have to be folded and carried by hand. The main lift component is a seat that folds out for the rider to sit on, and there isn’t room for a fully deployed wheelchair on board. This is not an issue for seniors who can stand and sit without help, but who need some assistance up and down stairs. It is also not likely to be an issue for seniors who can keep a spare wheelchair upstairs and just leave their main one downstairs. For seniors who cannot stand, however, a larger and more heavy-duty model might be appropriate.
Ameriglide earns a spot on the list of best stairlifts for seniors in wheelchairs because of its industry-leading low prices and long list of product options. The base model of Ameriglide stairlift can be had for as little as $1,689 plus the cost of installation. Unlike most stairlifts, the Ameriglide Horizon can actually be installed without professional help, so by a family member or caregiver, for example. For seniors who choose professional installation, the job can be done quickly and without much disruption to the existing stairway and carpet for between $575 and $775, depending on track length.
The Horizon base model runs on a straight track for a standard 14.75 feet, though it can be extended out as far as 55 feet for the cost of $50 per foot over the standard. Lifts come with safety sensors, folding rails and a manual fold-away mechanism that collapses the lift and clears the stairs for foot traffic. Remote controls have a decent range and work through obstructions, while the joystick control on the lift itself can be installed to either the left or the right. Emergency stop and reverse functions are standard on all models, and they are fairly gentle and non-jarring to engage.
Harmar’s Sierra IL500 is an inclined stairlift platform with a 500-pound capacity and enough room on the platform for a fully deployed wheelchair. This is Harmar’s lightweight platform lift, which comes with a freestanding post kit that allows a wall-free installation by one person. No modifications need to be made to install the IL500, and the device can be removed or replaced in just a few minutes. The Pinnacle heavy-duty option has a maximum weight capacity of 600 pounds, and a new model can be had for $5,695.
101 Mobility is an odd entry on the list of stairlift companies, if only because it doesn’t manufacture any of the models it sells. Instead, the company has licensing arrangements with Harmar, Savaria and other manufacturers to market some of their designs under the 101 Mobility brand. This works well for the company, as it allows a single distributor with over 70 locations in the United States to offer a wider range of models than any single manufacturer is likely to have. Stairlifts offered under this arrangement are covered by the same warranties that the manufacturers offer with their own models, such as the 2-year warranty Harmar provides for its Pinnacle lift or the Bruno model that comes with a lifetime drivetrain warranty.
Stairlifts for seniors in wheelchairs are relatively mechanically simple devices. The basic component is the lift platform. This can be an actual platform, in models designed to accept a wheelchair with a rider. The platform could also be an upholstered seat that the senior transfers into for the trip up. Which of these is best depends on the user’s mobility and ability to operate the lift without help.
Whichever type of platform a lift has, it almost always runs on a sturdy rail system with a powered drivetrain. The electric motor provides lift power on the way up, and smooth resistance on the way down. All lifts should have automatic braking and reverse functions, as well as restraints to prevent falls.
The best stairlifts for seniors in wheelchairs should be judged by several criteria, which vary in importance based on the circumstances of the senior using the unit. Platform type is one consideration, while warranty and installation options are also important. Price is the controlling factor for many seniors. For more information about your options, and for how to pay for a new lift, read our article about the most affordable stairlifts for seniors.