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North Yorkshire County Council has recently issued an AAT stairclimber to a local resident to ensure she can easily and safely get up and down the stairs in her flat, giving her greater independence, dignity, and peace of mind. The assistive technology solution has made a great difference to her quality of life.

One of the biggest fears for many older people living in flats is inability to get out and about should they become less mobile, particularly if there is no lift.

One North Yorkshire family has been given an efficient way around the problem, as arthritis, osteoporosis, sclerosis of the liver, and COPD took their toll on their mum’s health and mobility.

Pam Backshell loves her Scarborough first-floor flat, with its panoramic views across the bays. She says even if she becomes bedridden, she will not move home. Her conditions mean she cannot walk any distance and often needs to use a wheelchair when she goes out, whether to the shops or just for some fresh air.

The block of flats where she lives has no lift. For her to go out, she was having to bottom shuffle down the concrete steps, relying on family and carers for support to ensure her safety.

Her daughter, Charlotte, was worried and wanted to find a better way to help her.

Research on the internet and discussions with Pam’s occupational therapist (OT) led to an answer: a stairclimber.

The battery-powered, seated kinematic device smoothly climbs and descends any number of steps to safely carry its passenger, in this case Pam, to and from her flat and beyond. It is steered and controlled by Charlotte or other members of her support network, enabling Pam to enjoy life with dignity.

The variety of stairclimber designs available means there is an option to suit every person and every configuration of stairs, including turns, narrow flights, half-landings, and spirals. Models can fix onto the back of a wheelchair or have an integrated seat.

They can be used by people of different sizes too, including bariatric clients. A range of accessories mean they can be personalised to suit every user’s support needs. When not in use, the stairclimber folds compactly away, optimising space within the flat and enabling its transfer into a car boot for use beyond the home.

“The stairclimber’s been a real problem-solver. It means so much to us,” explained Charlotte. “The stairclimber is so quick and easy to use, it’s just a couple of buttons to operate. It has been a life-saver: it was so dangerous how we used to get mum out and back home. This way is much more dignified.

“We have to deal with a flight of stairs from mum’s flat to the main entrance, then more steps beyond. Gareth from AAT was so helpful in working with us to find the best way to navigate them all.”

North Yorkshire County Council already had an AAT S-Max stairclimber in its equipment stock. This has been re-issued to Pam, meaning her mobility has been restored for no extra capital cost to the authority.

The only outlay has been to cover the cost of AAT’s professionals to support and assess Pam and her care team to set the stairclimber up correctly. The cost also ensures everyone is comfortable with the stairclimber and safe when using it, to service the unit, and train Charlotte and the care team in safe operation of the device.

Peter Wingrave, AAT Director, added: “20 percent of the population – 4.7 million people – live in flats, most commonly three storeys or less. Yet there is no Regulatory requirement for lower apartment blocks to provide a lift, it only being a “desirable” inclusion (Building Regulations Approved Document M 2021).

“With our growing ageing population, flat access and egress is only going to increase as a problem for occupational therapists. A stairclimber is the easy solution, that does not impinge on other residents, nor require any adaptation and associated permissions from landlords.”

In use throughout the UK for more than 15 years, AAT stairclimbers have an impeccable safety record, according to the firm. There are more than 3,000 AAT stairclimbers in regular use across the country, adds AAT, many of which have been re-issued in the same way as Pam’s.

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