How Do Stair Lifts Work?

For the elderly or disabled, mobility becomes a critical issue.

Special Populations

Everything from walking to getting out of a chair can put a strain on those people. Simply imagine how it must be when trying to climb up a flight of stairs. Thankfully, there are ways to make that a much more manageable. This article will discuss one of those methods: stair lifts.

For the elderly or disabled, mobility becomes a critical issue. Everything from walking to getting out of a chair can put a strain on those people. Simply imagine how it must be when trying to climb up a flight of stairs. Thankfully, there are ways to make that a much more manageable. This article will discuss one of those methods: stair lifts.

Stairs and Injuries

Climbing a set of stairs can be a chore, even to able-bodied people. You can burn 200 calories just climbing flights of stairs for 20 minutes. That means your body is doing a lot of work trying to fight gravity. Walking up and down stairs puts wear and tear on your hips and ankle joints. For the elderly that have atrophying muscles and a weaker bone structure, one misstep on the stairs can lead to a serious fall. Devices like a stair lift can help prevent such accidents.

Home Escalator For One

The basic stair lift provides an automated system of getting someone up one set of stairs utilizing a powered mobile seat and rail. It's almost like a home escalator for one. The seat is designed for someone to sit side-straddled with legs facing the length of the step. When activated, the seat would comfortably bring the person from the bottom to the top of the stairs, or vice versa, along an installed rail. Most stair lifts are not attached to the wall; instead, the railings are mounted along the steps. This makes the stair lifts able to fit most staircase designs. Many seats come with a footrest to add even more comfort. On the chair is a controller with varying settings that can determine speed and direction of the seat. For added safety, some chairs come with seat belts.

One version of a stair lifts works via a motor-driven belt system. The chair itself is mounted onto a belt that is housed along the rail. When the Stair Lift is activated via the "call" or "send" command, the powered belt begins to roll much like a conveyor belt. When the chair reaches the top or bottom, sensors let the belt know to stop moving and await the next command.

Another version works with a rack and pinion system. The chair is mounted onto a pinion that has several teeth. The pinion rolls along a rack that interconnects with those teeth like a gear. When the chair is activated, the pinion rolls along the rack, providing a secure but smooth transport along the rail.

There are variations on the stair lift method that provide better customization for every person. Although many stair lifts are wired into the home electrical system, they can also be battery-operated. The Bruno Electra- Ride II comes with wireless controls that allow the user to command the chair to move up to the top or down to the base of the stairs from another room. There are also outdoor stair lift models with weather-proof material and a higher weight capacity. Higher-end models are able to accommodate curved stairs and even multiple floors. Regardless of the model or design, the convenience of a stair lift may be able to benefit someone with special needs.

About the Author

Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.