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Ageing in Place

As we age, ultimately there may come a time when mobility is affected. Depending on individual health conditions, family or carer support available, as well as the type of property we live in, it is possible our safety at home may eventually become compromised.

Therefore, at some point we, or others on our behalf, may need to decide whether we can continue to live at home safely or whether it will be necessary to look for an alternative type of accommodation.

The good news is, unlike in the past, there are now a multitude of products, services or assistance which makes it possible to continue living in the family home for longer than might otherwise have been feasible.

One of the risks of ageing is the double-whammy of frailty and poor balance, as well as the dreaded muscle wastage. This results in the increased likelihood of falls. There are two main areas in the home that will need to be addressed immediately when these mobility challenges present themselves. These are the bathroom, where surfaces may become slippery, and of course, the stairs.

Bathrooms and stairs are also the two locations where balance can be most challenged, through the need to transfer body weight from one foot to the other when getting into and out of the shower or bath, and the act of walking up – or down – stairs. In the UK, research indicates around 1,000 people die each year from falling down the stairs and as many as 100,000 are treated for injuries relating to falling on the stairs.

The way in which homes are adapted to help with accessibility has evolved significantly over the years. Now, the focus is on helping with mobility and making sure risks are mitigated as soon as issues are detected. An initial go-to measure could be additional rails fixed around the property to use as support. Decades ago, before other in-home assistance was available, handrails may have been the entire extent of home adaptations on offer.

Disability Lifts and Stairlifts

As medical and assisted living technology became more readily available, powered accessibility aids began entering the domestic marketplace.

For those with limited mobility, the stairlift (or ‘inclinator’ as it was first known in the USA) was invented around 100 years as a convenient way to navigate stairs.

The introduction of these motorised devices provided people with the means to move between floors. This proved to be of significant benefit, enabling users to move around their home without pain and without becoming fatigued. However, these are not without their limitations.

Installing a stairlift takes up a lot of space in the home. If the house is being installed in features narrow stairs, the device could actually impede moving around as well as hinder other household members from passing the stairlift on the stairs.

Once installed, a stairlift becomes a permanent feature on the stairs, and is not an attractive or aesthetically-pleasing item. Over time, other challenges may arise, including safety concerns relating to falls when getting on and off the stairlift seat which is an integral part of using the device. This could eventually require assistance from family or carers to achieve safely.

If you find yourself alone at home and require assistance to get on and off the stairlift, this mobility solution will quickly become restricting. Furthermore, if you have poor balance, you must be capable of getting off the stairlift directly onto the landing without relying on the stairs at all. You may need to extend the rail the stairlift chair runs on or use a model which offers a swivel seat to minimise the risk, but both will inevitably encroach on landing space.

Weight is also a crucial factor to consider when selecting a stairlift. While various manufacturers offer features such as upholstery which matches the home’s decor, it is important to evaluate important core features such as weight limits and seat widths. Overlooking these could result in ending up with an unsuitable unit.

Wheelchair Lifts

The first wheelchair lift was invented in the USA in 1966 by Ralph Braun, who adapted his van to enable him to commute to work effectively. It is from this, the clinical design of wheelchair lifts has gradually evolved. The products were never successful in creating the look and feel that most users would prefer for their homes, instead they presented something closer to a clinical design more suited to medical settings.

Lifts for those with a disability also known as ‘inclined platform lifts’, offer wheelchair users safety and independence at home, with indoor and outdoor options available. The ‘platform’ stairlift option also works effectively in a care home environment where larger passenger lifts can also be found.

Whilst creating an effective mobility solution for wheelchair users, the design prioritises function over form resulting in a clinical appearance rather than serving as an attractive feature suitable for a domestic residence.

Today’s Solution: Contemporary Home Lifts

One of the biggest and most recent mobility innovations has been the reconfiguring of the platform lift traditionally used in homes, to a design small enough, and attractive enough, to fit into a normal-sized home with minimal disruption.

Manufacturers such as Stiltz Homelifts are leading the charge with this initiative, they have created some of the slimmest and best-looking domestic lifts available.

The compact but airy Stiltz Duo+ Home Lift, for example, has a footprint of less than a square metre which is the size of a small armchair. Nevertheless, it can still safely transport two people upstairs or down in around 30 seconds. Utilising state-of-the-art technology, these unique home lifts run on two vertical rails, or ‘stilts,’ eliminating the need for supporting walls.

The home lifts are powered using a standard domestic power socket, and carry their own compact electric motor in a neat casing located in the top of the lift car. This results in no noisy hydraulics or vacuum systems being required and renders the lift ‘whisper-quiet’ making less noise than many stairlifts.

This type of domestic lift can be installed quickly and conveniently into virtually any room in the overwhelming majority of homes and provides an ideal alternative to the stairlift.

These domestic lifts manufactured by Stiltz are freestanding allowing customers to choose whether they want to install them to travel up to a mezzanine or landing, place them in the void of a stairwell or even a cupboard. The most popular choice however is to tuck them into the corner of the lounge and have them take the user straight up to a bedroom.

Stiltz Domestic Lifts Remote ControlEvery home lift from Stiltz includes two remote controls allowing users to call the lift for either floor. In addition to carrying the people it is intended for, it is possible to transport suitcases, wash baskets, boxes and other awkward or heavy items between floors.

The lift incorporates all the safety and convenience measures you would expect from such a vital accessibility product. These include battery-back-up, a choice of full or half height doors, obstruction sensors, a key lock to prevent unauthorised use, optional seating and grab bars and more, all as standard.

Customers often find adding a home lift is far less stressful, disruptive, and costly compared to moving house or downsizing to a bungalow or apartment. Additionally, a lift in the home can add value to the property making it more desirable when it comes to selling up. Overall, today’s home lifts add significant convenience to one’s lifestyle with minimal running costs and, from a design perspective, they look fantastic too.

From handrails to disability lifts, stairlifts to wheelchair lifts and now through to home lifts, the evolution of home mobility has progressed immeasurably and gives those with accessibility issues the freedom and flexibility to enjoy life to the fullest, in comfort and style.

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