Alternative to stairs?

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Agent007
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Alternative to stairs?

Post by Agent007 »

My wife recently had a pretty nasty fall down the stairs and it got me thinking (crazy thought here) whether living in a home with stairs is really worth it. Every time I hear her walking up or down the stairs, I get anxious and half expect to hear a huge crash. Looking far into the future, I wonder whether we should be avoiding stairs in our older age anyway.

I checked home listings and buying a house that is all on one level in our area is extremely rare. Are there other alternatives that people have found and have been happy with? Elevator? Move everybody to a condo? Install a slide? Invest in anti-anxiety medication?
stlutz
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by stlutz »

My parents live in a 2 story house but there is a good sized bedroom on the 1st floor that I expect they'll switch to using in the not-too-distant future.

I'm sure you've seen those ads for the motorized chair that takes one up the stairs?
finite_difference
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by finite_difference »

If you have a nice bedroom on the first floor, and any other rooms your wife needs to use (office, etc.) then you don’t need to use the second floor.

Clean the upstairs rooms yourself or get a housekeeper service.

Encourage your wife to take Yoga or Tai Chi classes to improve balance and mobility (many other benefits as well, you can classes too!)
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SevenBridgesRoad
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by SevenBridgesRoad »

When we bought our (hopefully) last house five years ago, single-level living was a priority. Planning ahead.

The "best alternative to stairs" is...no stairs.

Do whatever it takes, but either move or rearrange your current home to live on one level.
Ybsybs
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Ybsybs »

If you don't move to a single floor home, eventually the basement and upper floor becomes onsite storage and onsite guest rooms.

Though from watching relatives age, those who made a concerted effort to use stairs regularly, if carefully, maintained the ability far longer than those who sought out a no stair lifestyle. I've got anecdotes, not data, but for myself, I want to maintain my stair use as long as possible. While a full flight of stairs can be hard, someone who can do a full flight slowly and carefully has no trouble with the frequent one to three stairs/curbs that need to be traversed to get into and out of the many, many locations that aren't wheelchair accessible.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Mr. Rumples »

Last year I was building a trellis and lost my balance. Grabbing the unfinished structure, I pulled it down with me getting a nail in my forehead. (Bad gash but thankfully not terribly deep.) I just have to take things slower and think more about what I do.

Falling can be scary; it might have been a fluke or it might be an issue with aging and balance. I have peripheral neuropathy and frankly had to learn to walk and balance again. Thus, in addition to living in a ranch style home - which seem to be not being built much these days - I have concentrated on physical therapy, yoga and strengthening muscles especially those neglected in the ankles and calves. These require some time and money but are worth it.
carolinaman
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by carolinaman »

We have always lived in a ranch style home. Now in our 70s were are very thankful that we do. My wife is physically unable to use stairs. I have no problem with stairs but you never know when that will change. We have many friends who downsized to one level homes due to the difficulties and dangers of using stairs.

Using 1st floor bedrooms and abandoning the 2nd level seems like a waste. You are heating and cooling the 2nd floor and it needs to be cleaned and maintained. I think relocating to a one level home is a better choice for most people.
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

I've searched over the last few years for single level houses in various areas where we might want to retire. Some are easy (Sedona, AZ, for example) where others aren't (Blacksburg, VA). In our area, a few new builds have been done with relatively large, single level homes where retirees moved in. The advantage there is that a good quality home can be built to your spec. The downside, of course is the cost, which where I live is at least 20% more than an existing home.
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jfn111
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by jfn111 »

I sold a nice Town Home several years ago where the husband was handicapped. It had 2 bedrooms and 2 baths on the main level as well as a mudroom laundry combo. The lower level had 2 bedrooms and a family room that they could use for family visits but no need to go down there on a regular basis. The TH had almost 1700 sq ft on each level so plenty of room to spread out on the main floor.
HomeStretch
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by HomeStretch »

My parents (in 80s) live in a 3-story condo (that they down-sized to in their 50s) without a first floor full bath or room that could be used as a bedroom. They recently installed chairlifts as they could no longer manage the stairs. The condo is still not accessible but they refuse to move.

That situation and a family member slipping on the stairs (and suffering a head injury) have made me realize our house will not be suitable for aging in place. So we will need to make a change in the next 10 years.

If you can’t find a one story house, consider a two-story home that has or can be modified to include a first floor room/bedroom, full bath with grab bar/higher toilets, even floors (no thresholds), first floor laundry, room for chairlift or elevator to other levels and other accessibility features. Also look for a place that has few steps going in and out of the house and easy access to car parking. Also consider proximity to healthcare providers, etc.
livesoft
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by livesoft »

For folks that are still able to exercise, one can start exercising now for all the stairs in their futures.
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squirm
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by squirm »

carpet your stairs and hand rails on both sides. get a bosu ball, stand on it one leg 3x a day to strengthen ankles and improve balance.
Shallowpockets
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Shallowpockets »

You certainly are not going to move in the next month, so you have to deal with the stairs now.
Your wife has to consciously THINK when she goes up or down the stairs. Exclude everything from your mind but safety and going up or down. Foot placement, speed. No handrail, put one in tomorrow. Use it.
Unless she does those things she may fall again.
Don’t know how old you are, but in any part of your life going forward you have to think safely. Consciously and deliberately. Ice and snow.
Old people fall, break hips. A significant proportion end up dying from complications of this.
The first line of defense is to think about what you are doing. All the time.
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Fclevz »

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GmanJeff
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by GmanJeff »

Stairs are one hazard, but there are others, such as area rugs, extension cords, pets underfoot, unsafe footwear, and so on. A focus on the risk posed by stairs alone may be less useful than a broader risk assessment: https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/check_fo ... hure-a.pdf

If balance or dizziness issues played any role in the mishap, a medical assessment would also be in order.
SC Anteater
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by SC Anteater »

squirm wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:25 am carpet your stairs and hand rails on both sides. get a bosu ball, stand on it one leg 3x a day to strengthen ankles and improve balance.
When I was doing PT after my ACL surgery the standing one legged on a bosu ball was super difficult, and I was a healthy, active 43 year old. Can't imagine many elders who can start doing that now!

(For all you whippersnappers in your 30s, go for it).
squirm
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by squirm »

SC Anteater wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 12:15 pm
squirm wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:25 am carpet your stairs and hand rails on both sides. get a bosu ball, stand on it one leg 3x a day to strengthen ankles and improve balance.
When I was doing PT after my ACL surgery the standing one legged on a bosu ball was super difficult, and I was a healthy, active 43 year old. Can't imagine many elders who can start doing that now!

(For all you whippersnappers in your 30s, go for it).
Start slow, hold onto the walls if needed at first.
bluelight
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by bluelight »

When we purchased our house 3 years ago, a single story was all that we would consider. It took almost a year for us to find the house we ultimately purchased, two story homes vastly outnumber single story homes in our area.

We still have to use stairs to access the washer/dryer in the basement. When the time comes that it becomes difficult we will probably put in a chairlift.
TBillT
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by TBillT »

Couple thousand bucks gets you a stair lift...more for curved. We just put one in for Mom.
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unclescrooge
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by unclescrooge »

Shallowpockets wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:41 am You certainly are not going to move in the next month, so you have to deal with the stairs now.
Your wife has to consciously THINK when she goes up or down the stairs. Exclude everything from your mind but safety and going up or down. Foot placement, speed. No handrail, put one in tomorrow. Use it.
Unless she does those things she may fall again.
Don’t know how old you are, but in any part of your life going forward you have to think safely. Consciously and deliberately. Ice and snow.
Old people fall, break hips. A significant proportion end up dying from complications of this.
The first line of defense is to think about what you are doing. All the time.
+1
Many old people who go to the hospital for broken bones end up contracting a fatal illness at the hospital.
sport
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by sport »

Some of the responses have suggested a first floor bedroom. For this to work, it is also necessary to have a first floor bath.
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by sport »

SevenBridgesRoad wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 2:33 am When we bought our (hopefully) last house five years ago, single-level living was a priority. Planning ahead.
The "best alternative to stairs" is...no stairs.
This is what we did too. It was the main reason for us to move to another house. We have enjoyed one-floor living.
spencer99
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by spencer99 »

I read Bill Bryson's fascinating book "At Home" last year in which he writes about the history and use of each area in a family home. I recall him mentioning the high percentage of home injuries (not to just the elderly) that take place on stairs. I recall him writing that this is under reported (understood?) because of lack of statistical gathering.

For those who aren't ready for or need a chair lift I've seen a couple other devices that seem to hold promise:

https://stairsteady.net/

https://assistep.com/news/stair-lift-cost

S
ralph124cf
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by ralph124cf »

If you have the money and room, an elevator works.

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cashboy
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by cashboy »

Agent007 wrote: Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:31 pm Looking far into the future, I wonder whether we should be avoiding stairs in our older age anyway.
single level houses are perfect for seniors (or people of any age). many/most retirement home developments are single level houses.


Agent007 wrote: Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:31 pm

I checked home listings and buying a house that is all on one level in our area is extremely rare.
it took me many months to fund my current ranch home (single level; large enough; unfinished basement; laundry room on main floor of house). They are somewhat rare in some parts of the country, but worth it. my next home, if/when i move, will be the same.

take a look around since you do not seem to be in a hurry (for now).


if i was in a two level house i (personally) would go with an elevator. can use it with wheelchairs (should that become necessary) and can also use it to move things between floors (like laundry). of course, they can be pricey.

something like this (only as an example; i do not know this company):

https://www.stiltzlifts.com/residential-elevator/
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Fallible
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Fallible »

GmanJeff wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 12:10 pm Stairs are one hazard, but there are others, such as area rugs, extension cords, pets underfoot, unsafe footwear, and so on. A focus on the risk posed by stairs alone may be less useful than a broader risk assessment: https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/check_fo ... hure-a.pdf

If balance or dizziness issues played any role in the mishap, a medical assessment would also be in order.
Excellent advice throughout..

OP, can you say what caused her fall on the stairs? Was she injured and, if so, would that increase her risk for more falls? Has she had falls elsewhere?
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adamthesmythe
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by adamthesmythe »

OP hasn't said whether there are balance/ physical condition issues or whether the stairs are unusually dangerous. Some stairs are treacherous (I have seen them in even high-end houses); some are forgiving (carpeted and with landings and handrails).

The options have all been explored. Find a single-level house; live on the first floor only; get a stair lift.

About the stair lift- inaesthetic; in the way; and a liability when selling a house.
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lthenderson
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by lthenderson »

Agent007 wrote: Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:31 pm I checked home listings and buying a house that is all on one level in our area is extremely rare. Are there other alternatives that people have found and have been happy with? Elevator? Move everybody to a condo? Install a slide? Invest in anti-anxiety medication?
Another alternative that gets kicked around are elevators that are external to your existing house footprint but are sided and such to make it blend into your home. Because it only requires two exterior walls with interior access that are immediately above each other, they are much cheaper to install than interior elevators. They also require less reconfiguring of existing rooms, wiring, plumbing, ducting, etc.
p14175
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by p14175 »

I agree with moving to a one story house. But also, look at outdoor stairs as well.
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by ohai »

My wife's grandma fell on her stairs and took like 1 day to die before people found her. Everyone else was on vacation. It really was not good - stairs hazard is real. She probably lost 20 years of her life from this accident. If you do have stairs and are at the age where falling is a major risk, please have some kind of alert button or smart watch that will allow you to call for emergency help if you need it. Also, look into carpeting those stairs to reduce slipping and cushion a fall if you haven't already.

The best thing would probably be to move to a flat house. I'd prefer a flat house anyway, even if I wasn't an older person.
Trader Joe
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Trader Joe »

Agent007 wrote: Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:31 pm My wife recently had a pretty nasty fall down the stairs and it got me thinking (crazy thought here) whether living in a home with stairs is really worth it. Every time I hear her walking up or down the stairs, I get anxious and half expect to hear a huge crash. Looking far into the future, I wonder whether we should be avoiding stairs in our older age anyway.

I checked home listings and buying a house that is all on one level in our area is extremely rare. Are there other alternatives that people have found and have been happy with? Elevator? Move everybody to a condo? Install a slide? Invest in anti-anxiety medication?
The best alternative to stairs is to move to a home with no stairs asap. Single story.
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dm200
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by dm200 »

I suspect that her risks of falling will never go down - and are likely to go up.

Perhaps, though, there might be some health/medical issues that might be addressed - such as dizziness, vertigo, etc. Also, I think there may be some kinds of stair climbing and descending "techniques" that may reduce the risks of falling. Perhaps there might be improved railings that could be installed.

My wife has not fallen going up or down stairs yet - I believe she will be at continuing risk.

I know some folks/houses have installed an elevator, I do not know how that has worked out.

Can you do any reasonable changes to your house to "live" on the main floor?

Our neighborhood, as well, seems to have very, very few one floor houses. More outer suburbs do have some single floor houses ("ranch" or "rambler"). Some are split level - which is a lot of stairs. Some are "split foyer" or "raised ranch" - also a lot of stairs.

I have seen some houses in our locality that have a second floor (with bedrooms and full bath), but have a nice bedroom and bathroom on the first floor as well. Some are built that way, while others have a small, one story, addition with the bedroom and full bath.

With 40+ year 20/20 hindsight, I now wish that we had purchased a house that had a bedroom and full bathroom on the main floor. I think some may have been available - for about the same price - way back then.

Good luck!
Last edited by dm200 on Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
sport
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by sport »

ohai wrote: Fri Jan 03, 2020 4:59 pm My wife's grandma fell on her stairs and took like 1 day to die before people found her. Everyone else was on vacation. It really was not good - stairs hazard is real. She probably lost 20 years of her life from this accident. If you do have stairs and are at the age where falling is a major risk, please have some kind of alert button or smart watch that will allow you to call for emergency help if you need it. Also, look into carpeting those stairs to reduce slipping and cushion a fall if you haven't already.

The best thing would probably be to move to a flat house. I'd prefer a flat house anyway, even if I wasn't an older person.
My grandma missed the bottom step going down. She thought she was at the bottom, but there was one more step to go. She suffered a broken hip and her life was never the same after that.
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dm200
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by dm200 »

sport wrote: Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:27 pm
ohai wrote: Fri Jan 03, 2020 4:59 pm My wife's grandma fell on her stairs and took like 1 day to die before people found her. Everyone else was on vacation. It really was not good - stairs hazard is real. She probably lost 20 years of her life from this accident. If you do have stairs and are at the age where falling is a major risk, please have some kind of alert button or smart watch that will allow you to call for emergency help if you need it. Also, look into carpeting those stairs to reduce slipping and cushion a fall if you haven't already.
The best thing would probably be to move to a flat house. I'd prefer a flat house anyway, even if I wasn't an older person.
My grandma missed the bottom step going down. She thought she was at the bottom, but there was one more step to go. She suffered a broken hip and her life was never the same after that.
Yes - my maternal grandmother (at about the age of 90) was very active everyday (living with my father and uncle), doing some cooking and some household things, and showing no signs of mental decline at all. Then, she tripped (on some carpet, I believe) and broke her hip. In the hospital, she seemed to be recovering ok for a few days - and then, while in the hospital, turning over in bed (or something like that) quickly became mentally confused (some kind of dementia, I suspect) and lived in a care facility like that until she died five years later.
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by livesoft »

I was going up and down the stairs today for exercise and thought of this thread. For folks that have stairs and that are young enough to still use them, then I suggest that you try to stave off perhaps the inevitable by practicing on your stairs quite a lot. That is, go up and down them every single day if you can multiple times even if you don't have to. Carry a dumbbell in each hand, too. Start with no dumbbell, then add weight.

My MIL fell down our stairs and cracked her head open and died. I will always remember the screaming of my daughter who saw it happen.
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dboeger1
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by dboeger1 »

Shallowpockets wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:41 am You certainly are not going to move in the next month, so you have to deal with the stairs now.
Your wife has to consciously THINK when she goes up or down the stairs. Exclude everything from your mind but safety and going up or down. Foot placement, speed. No handrail, put one in tomorrow. Use it.
Unless she does those things she may fall again.
Don’t know how old you are, but in any part of your life going forward you have to think safely. Consciously and deliberately. Ice and snow.
Old people fall, break hips. A significant proportion end up dying from complications of this.
The first line of defense is to think about what you are doing. All the time.
Can you please tell this to my wife? We're still young. I'm 29, she's 27, nowhere near the ages of the people who typically face such serious danger from stairs. But she has this habit of committing to her movements completely and aggressively without giving herself time to evaluate and adapt to situations. I wouldn't call her clumsy, since I don't think she makes silly movement mistakes any more frequently than your average person, but when she does, she goes down hard. She recently gave herself a nasty lump on the head from closing our car's hatchback rear door onto herself while on vacation. I was tempted to take her to the hospital when it seemed like she had persistent headaches and fatigues over the next couple of days, but thankfully she seemed to recover. She has also hit her knees on tables, head on bedposts, you name it. She one was smacking a bunch of flowers and branches on the side of the road while we were walking our dog one day, despite me begging her to stop, and she smacked some kind of spiky little plant thing as hard as she could and got pieces stuck in her hand. I told her it was hard for me not to be sympathetic to the plant.

Ironically, she likes rock climbing, and I overheard her watching a tutorial video from an expert rock climber once. One of his main pieces of advice was to actually just look at and visually confirm foot and hand placements instead of trusting that they are secure. He mentioned how easy it is to assume a step is safe, look away before placing one's foot, and then slipping when the hold isn't good. That's basically the exact same thing you said, and I think it applies to everyone, not just the elderly. If we all just gave ourselves the little bit of time it takes to consciously think about and verify our steps, we would have far fewer accidents.

Ultimately, I think OP should consider a 1-story home, but in the meantime, for as long as they have and intend to use stairs, they really should practice conscious stair-climbing rather than rushing themselves.
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by teCh0010 »

cashboy wrote: Wed Jan 01, 2020 7:17 pm
Agent007 wrote: Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:31 pm Looking far into the future, I wonder whether we should be avoiding stairs in our older age anyway.
single level houses are perfect for seniors (or people of any age). many/most retirement home developments are single level houses.


Agent007 wrote: Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:31 pm

I checked home listings and buying a house that is all on one level in our area is extremely rare.
it took me many months to fund my current ranch home (single level; large enough; unfinished basement; laundry room on main floor of house). They are somewhat rare in some parts of the country, but worth it. my next home, if/when i move, will be the same.

take a look around since you do not seem to be in a hurry (for now).


if i was in a two level house i (personally) would go with an elevator. can use it with wheelchairs (should that become necessary) and can also use it to move things between floors (like laundry). of course, they can be pricey.

something like this (only as an example; i do not know this company):

https://www.stiltzlifts.com/residential-elevator/
My parents have something similar to this. They had two staircases from 1st to 2nd floor, a front stair and a back stair that goes straight to the kitchen. The back stair was removed and a through car elevator installed in its place. One side opens to the basement then the first floor kitchen, one side opens to the second floor hallway that was built where the stairs used to be. It is electric and geared, and doesn't have a pit under it. Sits flat on the slab, so there is a 3in ramp under the carpet in the basement leading up to it. It is wide enough for a wheelchair, which some of the smallest home elevators aren't.

I have no idea what they spent on it, but the elevator has worked well. They still have two steps from their garage into their house, they will probably end up building a ramp but lose a parking spot. Their front door has two steps as well, so they have to do something to get from the car into the house.

They have master/kitchen/living/laundry on the first floor but my Dad's office and moms sewing/hobby room are upstairs, and the walkout basement leads to the lake so they need access to all three levels. They won't move someplace smaller, they like hosting the grandkids on the lake in the summers. My mom says "They next time I move, it will be someplace very permanent".
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by JBTX »

livesoft wrote: Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:59 pm I was going up and down the stairs today for exercise and thought of this thread. For folks that have stairs and that are young enough to still use them, then I suggest that you try to stave off perhaps the inevitable by practicing on your stairs quite a lot. That is, go up and down them every single day if you can multiple times even if you don't have to. Carry a dumbbell in each hand, too. Start with no dumbbell, then add weight.

My MIL fell down our stairs and cracked her head open and died. I will always remember the screaming of my daughter who saw it happen.
For years, more than 15 years, I did between 10-30 flights of stairs a day at work when I worked downtown. It kept me in pretty good shape and I didn't do a lot of formal exercise. Unfortunately I don't have access to that any more. Plus it is now a bit rough on the knees.
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Re: Alternative to stairs?

Post by Katietsu »

dboeger1 wrote: Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:03 pm
Can you please tell this to my wife? We're still young. I'm 29, she's 27, nowhere near the ages of the people who typically face such serious danger from stairs. But she has this habit of committing to her movements completely and aggressively without giving herself time to evaluate and adapt to situations. I wouldn't call her clumsy, since I don't think she makes silly movement mistakes any more frequently than your average person, but when she does, she goes down hard. She recently gave herself a nasty lump on the head from closing our car's hatchback rear door onto herself while on vacation. I was tempted to take her to the hospital when it seemed like she had persistent headaches and fatigues over the next couple of days, but thankfully she seemed to recover. She has also hit her knees on tables, head on bedposts, you name it. She one was smacking a bunch of flowers and branches on the side of the road while we were walking our dog one day, despite me begging her to stop, and she smacked some kind of spiky little plant thing as hard as she could and got pieces stuck in her hand. I told her it was hard for me not to be sympathetic to the plant.
This made me laugh. I am now twice your wife’s age. I have fallen on ice, on tree roots, stairs or whatever a few times a year my whole life. Ran into a few tree branches myself.

Remember being confused when an elderly relative fell and suffered no injuries while her kids decided this meant it was time for assisted living. That was the first time I realized not all adults expected to have to pick themselves up now and then the same as when they were kids.

At my age, I am starting to get concerned that the next fall might require medical care (never has yet.). I guess I will need to start paying more attention to my feet as my mother used to tell me.
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