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How to know whether or not you need a stairlift

27th February 2014

As we get older, the time may come when certain daily tasks become more difficult than they used to be. Climbing the stairs can put a lot of pressure on joints and muscle groups which older people can find incredibly painful. Other conditions such as arthritis or a previous hip fracture – as well as general ageing - can also impact on movement, and this can leave the body in a state of vulnerability when it comes to moving about the home.

To combat this, mobility aids and home adaptations including walk-in showers and baths can make home life considerably easier and more comfortable, reducing the pressure put on joints. But how do you know when it is the right time to buy a stairlift? It can be difficult to decide whether your movement has become so difficult that a stairlift could considerably improve your lifestyle or whether you can continue as you are. To help you make this decision, have a read of this guide which offers advice on whether your reduced movement would benefit from the help of a stairlift and which model would best suit your needs.

Movement test

The most reliable way of detecting whether your mobility calls for the help of a mobility aid is by seeing your doctor or an occupational therapist. A doctor will be equipped with the skills and experience required to determine the extent to which your movement ability has been reduced by either ageing or a medical condition.

If you are suffering rheumatoid arthritis symptoms the installation of a home stairlift could help ease the pressure put on joints when moving around the home. Stairlifts which feature a joystick operation feature are easier to use for those who suffer from arthritis, as they only involve slight movements of the wrist.

When it comes to testing your movement ability, the ‘Timed Up and Go test’ is a long-established method. The test involves monitoring the time it takes to get up from a chair, walk a distance of three metres, return to the chair and sit down. If you take less than 10 seconds to complete this task then it suggests you have a normal degree of mobility. Between 11-20 seconds indicates that you may struggle with movement and could benefit from the help of a stairlift. 20 seconds or more suggests you may need help with movement outside the home in the form of a carer. Falls in the elderly are believed to be common among those who take 14 seconds or more to complete the test and would greatly benefit from the installation of a home mobility aid to prevent such potentially harmful accidents.

The stairlift for you

Once you have determined whether or not you need a stairlift to help with movement around the home, it is a simple case of deciding on the product that is right for you. While this may appear a daunting task to start with, the best manufacturers can offer easy and straightforward advice with a home assessment.

Firstly, determine whether you want a stairlift for straight or curved stairs, as this will narrow down the search criteria. Then, you will want to decide what is comfortable for you:

  • Do you want to travel in a seated position?

If the answer is yes, then you would be advised to invest in a seated stairlift. This is the most popular type of stairlift, although some opt for a standing model if they struggle at times to bend their knees. If you do choose a standing lift, however, be sure to think about whether there is enough headroom in your stairway.

  • Is it painful to move your hands or wrists?

If so, then you may want to opt for a joystick or toggle to operate your stairlift. If the movement in your wrists is ok then you should look towards the more conventional stairlift remote control.

It can be tempting to go for cheap disability aids that don’t necessarily cater for your specific needs but this could be counteractive in the long run, as it is always best to choose the stairlift that is right for you and your degree of movement.

Image Credit: Ljupco Smokovski (

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only and are up to date as of the time of publishing