Stairs or no stairs, that is the question.

The stairs question comes up at almost every open house and showing. When I’m working with folks starting to think about retirement, it comes up 100% of the time. My wife and I have had this discussion at least 100 times. It always starts with the empty nest concept; when our last child goes off to college, should we downsize to a smaller single story home?


I never thought I’d write about it; what’s the big deal? As we get older, we want everything on the same floor, right? As we become less active, our ability to manage stairs diminishes; or is it the other way around? Maybe we become more sedentary as we age because we are constantly looking for things to make our lives easier. Elevators, ramps, shorter walks, easier to manage floor plans, closer parking places, and on and on. But this question keeps coming up; why exactly do we not want stairs as we age? The obvious answer is we are going to get old and infirm, might as well prepare now. I disagree 

 If we go back a few decades, nobody was downsizing as they got older. Almost everyone stayed in their home till the end, stairs and all. There was no moving to a condo (I love condos!) to make life easier. We are a more affluent society, and a lot of us can afford to move when we want; however, do we have to have a home with no stairs? I would say no; if you are assuming you won’t be able to use them one day, you probably won’t. Most of the time when we tell ourselves we can’t do something, we can’t.

My mother in law is 78. She lives in Japan, in a two story house with very steep stairs, and is fiercley independent. At 4’8”, those steps are even steeper for her. The thing is, she runs up and down those stairs 100 times a day. During a recent visit, I asked if maybe it was time to move to a condo (in Japan they call condos mansions; don’t know why), where she wouldn’t have to deal with stairs. Her answer was absolutely not! The reasoning was if she stopped using the stairs, she would lose the exercise she was getting from going up and down. Also, there would be no garden to take care of, or bigger house (all 700 sf) to maintain.  She assumed, rightly so, that her life would be much too easy in a single story condo. Where lives now forces her to move and exercise muscles she would not have to if she relocated. Consequently, she can out walk most people my age (56) and can certainly out walk most everyone her age. 

Now, I realize there are circumstances where one can not navigate stairs; this is not directed to you. The idea behind writing this is to at the very least give you food for thought; am I passing up what might not ever affect me? Perhaps you might have another 10 or 20 years before stairs are a problem. Perhaps never…..


So, when you’re looking for a new house to move to after the kids move out, don’t avoid the stairs! Unless you already have issues that would keep you from using them. 


 As you search for that perfect home, not worrying about stairs will make your search so much easier. I would think location would be more important. Being close to the things you enjoy, like the beach, the mountains, coffee shops, and having a place big enough for the grandkids should be higher on your list. 


Let me know what you think, comment down below. Thanks for reading!

Oh, and next time you have a choice between the stairs and an elevator, take the stairs!