ms-sticksOne of our favorite summer activities is exploring new places.  This summer our discoveries included a craft fair in Bennington, Vermont, and over Labor Day weekend, the New York State Fair in Syracuse.  Since it is impossible for us ever to forget that we are elder law attorneys, a part of us is always on the look out for things that could be useful for our clients, and these fairs did not fail to provide.  We found two items that couldn’t be more different, but both could be enormously helpful for an elder hoping to maintain his/her independence in the community.

First, the simple, found at the craft fair:  a customized wooden walking stick, for someone who needs just that extra bit of assurance to remain steady on his/her feet.

This one would be a perfect (albeit a little bit pricey) gift from a child or grandchildren.  The artist burns on to the shaft of the stick the elder’s life story, highlighting special family events.  Totally customized.  Guaranteed conversation starter.  For more info and to order, see Life History Sticks.

Second, the sublime, found at the New York State Fair:  a pneumatic in-home elevator that does not require a separate machine room, pit, or large footprint.  If you are like us, the idea of a home elevator bring images of penthouse apartments and the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  But it looks like elevators are no longer just for the rich and famous, and have become an affordable option to the stairway chairlifts that we have all seen on TV.

vision-elevatorRequiring only 37 inches of floor space yet able to carry up to 450 pounds and make up to four stops, this compact elevator can be sited anywhere, including right next to an existing staircase.  Nationwide Lifts displaying at the Fair (about whom we make no representations) is based in New York but has a vendor in Massachusetts.  (See  We discovered when we got home that there are many other vendors and a wealth of information about this product on the internet. (See google search results if you want to learn more.)

An in-home elevator is not cheap (the starting price for the base model shown at the Fair was around $30,000 after a “State Fair Special”), but it can maybe be the difference between a senior being able to remain safe and comfortable that much longer in his own home, or having to move because stairs have become an insurmountable challenge.  The cost is way less than even one year in an assisted living facility and likely also less than the cost of renovating a home’s first floor to accommodate a senior or person with disabilities who is no longer able to sleep/bathe upstairs in his/her home.  Using cash assets (or a reverse mortgage) to cover the cost of this product can be a great example of maximizing resources to enhance quality of life.  If you end up installing one of these things in your home, please let us know so we can share your experience with others.