Town Crier Articles

Home Maintenance Series: Stair Lifts & Personal Elevators
Posted on June 1, 2021 7:00 AM by Patti Vaticano
New Town has its share of innovative floor plans on 2, 3, and even 4 story levels.  Style and grace have been our community’s hallmark, but multilevel living presents unique challenges for homeowners. For the elder New Town resident, stairs are an obstacle to easy living but trading off the energy and convenience of “life in town,” for a ranch or carriage home further out in the county may not be a viable option.  For residents with personal elevators in their homes, a complex interior conveyor, while novel, presents a considerable undertaking in time and money to maintain.  
Installation of a stair lift—or two—is the chief way for residents to age in place and a great alternative to moving to a more manageable, albeit, less centrally located home. Of course, the first question is cost.  Stair lifts can be costly, but when compared to the cost of a house move or a senior care transition, it’s a downright bargain.  Though not a hard-and-fast rule, some Medicare supplements will pay for a stairlift, in whole or in part, if the need for one is a medical issue and sanctioned by a physician. The homeowner may be able to take advantage of state grants to fund their lifts, as well, or tap into state assistive technology projects that are in place to help the disabled. In general, however, a lift will be an out-of-pocket expense for the homeowner.
If your home has a straight staircase with about 12-14 steps, you should budget anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to purchase a new stair lift. The average cost usually ends up in the middle of this range, between about $3,000 and $4,000. Outdoor steps are more expensive, ranging from $5,000 to $7,000, with outdoor curved lifts reaching as high as $12,000, depending upon the company contracted, of course.  These prices generally include installation as well as a one-year service warranty. It is possible to rent a stairlift if the need of the homeowner is temporary, for a convalescent period or when a short-term visit of a disabled friend or family member is anticipated.  Rentals are not always cost-effective, however, as they can range from as little as $50 to as much as $250 to $500 a month.  In a rental scenario, as well, repair costs thereafter may be necessary to bring your home back to its pre-lift appearance.  Not surprisingly, the higher-end lifts offer a number of design options for the homeowner, from slim-line and/or collapsible designs and curved or customed tracks to color-coordinated fabrics for your home interior.  A standard lift, however, will meet the needs necessary to tackle the dilemma of an aging household in a multi-level home.  
Lifts are most often powered by a rechargeable battery which offers unbroken service if a home’s power is ever interrupted.  However, some companies advise that you turn the lift off during an outage to preserve it from sustaining a possible power surge when the power comes back on. It is recommended, to reach maximum battery performance, to use your lift chair regularly, keep it plugged in to its wall outlet, at all times, and park your lift in the down level or up level space, never mid-track.  When out of town, turn off the lift entirely by its power button. The track should be dusted and the seat and back portion sanitized, regularly; and a maintenance check by the professional installer, once a year, is highly advisable.
New Town residents with personal elevators have a lengthier maintenance checklist to address.  To ensure a fully functional home elevator, there are specific rules the homeowner needs to follow for both safety and damage-control issues:
  • Pay attention to the elevator’s weight limit — don’t overload it;
  • Keep all contents at least 2 inches away from the cab gate and cab wall;.
  • Always keep the landing doors closed unless you’re getting in or out of your elevator;
  • Don’t operate your elevator if the car gate or landing door locking system seems to be malfunctioning;
  • Never tamper, bypass, disable or remove door locks or any other safety features;
  • Don’t operate your elevator if you hear strange sounds or if the ride seems unusual;
  • Make sure the elevator completely stops before you get out or in and be sure to watch your step;
  • Don’t open the car gate while the elevator is moving or put your hands or feet through the openings in a scissor-style gate; and
  • Schedule regular maintenance checks with the elevator’s professional installer as well as perform self-checks between your services dates.  By way of example, when you step into the elevator, make note of the following:
    • Are all of the buttons working as they should be?
    • Does the door open and close properly?
    • Do you notice any interior damage at a glance?
Stair lifts and personal elevators.  Not inexpensive or maintenance-free, but the best options for New Town residents who love their home and community and choose to age in place.
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