Stairlifts and Star Trek: not words ordinarily uttered in the same sentence, but are now the stuff of headlines thanks to the pioneering work of a British company.
“Beam me up(stairs) Scotty!” was how the Daily Mail reported the news that Cheshire-based Terry Lifts has invented a Star Trek-style home elevator that could one day replace the traditional stairlift.
The space-saving glass lift, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the one used aboard the Starship Enterprise, can be installed in the corner of a room and works without the need for a shaft thanks to a hidden hydraulic mechanism. Just a few feet wide, the lift, which currently retails for between £13,000 and £15,000, can be lowered or raised out of sight when not in use and can hold up to two people. It can even be clad in the same floor covering to minimise its visual impact.
"You could describe it as a high-end chair lift,” John McSweeney from Terry Lifts told new service Reuters. “People don't want, in many cases, a chair-lift on their beautiful staircase and they don't necessarily want a lift; it's about looking at the lift for the long-term future proofing the property. And unlike a stairlift which is a permanent feature on your staircase, the lift can be sent away when you don't need it – so it's never the elephant in the room.”
According to the Daily Mail, the manufacturers spotted a gap in the market “With more and more ‘empty nesters’ wanting to stay at home rather than downsize to a bungalow or retirement village”.
One such couple are Sally and Behram from Hertfordshire, who, according to the Reuters report, were in the process of selling up because Sally’s knee problems made it difficult for her to use the stairs and their property was not suited to a stairlift. They saw the Terry lift at an exhibiton and realized it could be the solution.
Sally told Reuters: “We've lived in this house for 40 years and I have problems with my knees and muscles, and the stairs in this house are very, very step and very narrow. So we needed to find either a bungalow or some means of getting me upstairs.
“We can stay here now for the foreseeable future. It's just given us the old life back that we had before as opposed to moving in to something smaller which might not have met our needs quite so well.”
Other features of the futuristic lift include fire protection between upper and lower floors and pressure sensitive surfaces which act as a safety device stopping the lift if there is an obstruction above or below. The Lifestyle Lift has a battery backup that will steadily return the user to the ground floor if there is a power cut.
Mr McSweeney told Reuters: "If a pet or child was playing underneath the lift, you've got a safety bottom with micro-switches all over that safety bottom. So as soon as it comes in contact with any obstruction, it will immediately stop. And you have about 20 millimeters of pinch-point - so there's no mild crushing at all, it is very, very sensitive.”
He added: "A lot of people that have come round to various exhibitions that we've been at in the UK, quite often they would say it looks more like a shower cubicle. That is the first reaction. The second reaction is the pod's design does look like the, you know, "Beam me up, Scotty" – Star Trek – you know you go in, there's two people at a time maximum, usually one, and then off it disappears.”