It is said that renovating a house to accommodate the needs of mobility-impaired persons will increase its property value by as much as 25%. People see the value of future-proofing their home for aging or sudden health challenges. There’s also a convenience factor in making it easier to carry laundry, luggage, the vacuum, or even moving furniture.
People are living longer and many desire to stay in their homes as long as possible. Whether building a new home or renovating an existing one, plans can be made to allow for aging in place. Considering mandatory space requirements, a good place to start planning is with upward/downward movement. Recent technological advances give us several good options to move between floors utilizing chair lifts or platform lifts.
Chair lifts provide a seat for one person that moves up/down the length of a stairway. With many safety features, these lifts are easy to use and affordable. Both straight and curved stairways can be accommodated by a chair lift that attaches to stair treads and can be placed on either side. Chairs fold away when not in use and swivel seats are highly recommended for ease of movement. Chair lifts are powered by battery or electric sources but A/C power with a rechargeable battery is ideal. They are available both indoors and outdoors.
Platform lifts can accommodate anyone including those in wheelchairs, power chairs, or scooters. The most common platform lift is also called an elevator. In addition, there are open vertical platform lifts best used for shorter distances and incline platform lifts that move mobility devices like a wheelchair up/down a stairway.
Home elevators are not only for the rich and famous anymore. New technology allows better affordability, a slimmer profile, energy efficiency, quieter operation, and customization. Elevators are typically enclosed with solid walls and/or glass and move between floors. Today, there is no need to dig a pit or shaft or provide space for a machine room. In many cases, little to no construction is required. A few power options exist: pneumatic, battery, cable/pulley, and hydraulic. In some cases, a separate dedicated power line does not need to be installed. The fun part is choosing size and finish materials like flooring, walls, lighting, and hardware. Check safety features between manufacturers when deciding what works best for your needs.
Open vertical platform lifts, sometimes referred to as “porch lifts” are a lower cost option typically suited for for situations with a smaller number of stairs. These lifts look like an open cage with swinging doors.
An incline platform lift transports most mobility devices up/down a staircase. This is a good option if there is no space for a vertical platform lift. While the lift takes up a majority of the stairway, some models fold to within 13” when not in use. They are available for both indoors/outdoors.
Ramps, of course, are another option best used outdoors. The disadvantage is space requirements: 12” horizontal travel is needed for every 1” of vertical travel. Ramps can also cause fatigue.
Also, when planning for barrier-free accessibility, keep in mind that extra square footage is necessary to maneuver wheelchairs and other mobility devices through wider hallways and doorways. Kitchens and bathrooms also require special design. Stairlifts, platform lifts, or home elevators will become necessary to remain living in the same house. The costs for these Universal Design features will be miniscule if a need arises due to accident, health problems, or aging.