The most obvious option is a stairlift. Stairlifts nowadays are very flexible – they can be bought (new or reconditioned) or rented, can be installed on straight or curved stairs and come in a choice of fabrics. But despite the manufacturers trying to persuade us otherwise, there still a stigma attached to stairlifts and the current designs are not especially stylish. They can also be expensive.
Another possibility is the installation of a home lift. Up till now, retrofitting a house with a lift has been difficult and very costly. However the new Stilz Duo Home Lift has a unique dual rail structure which does not require load bearing walls. It has a self contained drive mechanism, a small footprint and plugs into a normal 13 amp power socket and can be installed anywhere in the home. The models on the website do look slightly awkward but now that the engineering has been sorted out, it is not hard to see discrete home lifts becoming a popular choice, particularly in new builds.
If you just need some extra help with the stairs, another simpler, cheaper, option is the Stair Steady. The Stair Steady was first designed by Ruth Amos when she was 16 as part of her GCSE Resistant Material Course. After her teacher’s father’s suffered a stroke, Ruth was set the challenge of designing a product which allowed people to continue using the stairs safely. The Stair Steady is a secure rail with a folding handle which you move with you up and down the stairs and which locks securely when pushed. This is a very simple design and it has to be said that the white powder coated finish on the economy model is fairly basic but the company does offer classic and premier models which hopefully are more elegant.
It is really good to see some new solutions being introduced into the market and I do hope that the engineers will get together with the designers to develop really attractive models which will enhance and add value to our homes, in the same way that bathrooms have gone from being very functional environments to aspirational spaces.
Another possibility is to move your bedroom and bathroom downstairs. Converting a cloakroom to a wet room and moving into the dining room may be feasible but the current fashion for open plan living means that this is impossible in many UK homes. This is where theiHUS instant annex comes in.
iHUS manufacture prefabricated units offsite and simply winch them into place, either installing them as separate annexes in the garden or connecting them to the existing building. The iHUS is not as cheap option but it adds instant flexibility to a home’s layout and would be just as useful for boomerang kids or live-in nannies or carers.
However, before you finally decide to banish stairs, don’t forget that they are often the most convenient source of exercise. So rather than looking for ways to avoid them, another option is to improve your core fitness to make them easier to use. In her aptly-named DVD, Move It or Lose It!, Julie Robinson takes the class through various exercises which help strengthen the muscles which we need to perform everyday tasks such as walking up stairs. The DVD at £14 is substantially cheaper than any of the previous options (but does of course require a certain amount of residual strength).
iHUS will be exhibiting one of their modular units at this year’s Naidex