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Find out about adaptations you can make to your relative's home, from stairlifts and accessible power sockets to remote controls for opening and closing windows and curtains.

We cover the following aspects of home adaptation in this article:

1. Stairlifts
2. Wheelchairs lifts
3. Power sockets
4. Windows and curtains
5. Furniture and storage


Although stairlifts can be relatively expensive to buy or rent, they are a good solution for people with limited mobility as it allows them to stay living independently in homes with stairs, and may well avoid having to move the bed downstairs. Read about how to buy the best stairlift and how much they cost in Which? product reviews for Mobility and disability aids. We look at the different types of stairlifts that are available in the UK as well as giving advice on buying, installing and maintaining a stairlift.

Wheelchair lifts

A stairlift isn't compatible with wheelchairs, but it may be possible to fit a wheelchair or platform lift instead. These are specifically designed for domestic environments, usually travelling from the ground floor to the floor above. Installing such a lift will almost certainly require a degree of home adaptation, and the lift will take up space on both of the floors it travels between; costs start from around £8,000. 

Read more about adapting your home for wheelchairs and scooters here on Which? Elderly Care.

Power sockets

Bending down low to reach power sockets can be challenging if a person has reduced flexibility, particularly if the sockets are positioned behind furniture. Arthritic fingers and hands can make gripping plugs just as difficult. Here are some options that may help.

  • Wall-mounted socket extensions: these can be fixed at a convenient height to save bending down. If your loved one prefers to pull plugs out of the socket when the device isn’t in use, use hooks or clips to hold the plug and cable in place – otherwise plugs can fall to the floor, and your relative will have to bend to pick them up. Alternatively, ask an electrician to install additional sockets at a more convenient height.
  • Plug pulls: self-adhesive handles can be attached to plugs, making them easier to remove from the socket.
  • Remote controlled sockets: these plug into existing sockets and can be used with any device that has a three-pin plug. Using a remote control handset, you can turn the devices on or off from the comfort of your own chair, as long as the plugs remain in the remote-controlled sockets. You can buy these sockets in packs of up to four with a single handset that controls each socket individually.

Windows and curtains

Daylight and fresh air are essential to health and wellbeing. If someone finds it difficult, or impossible, to go outside regularly, there are ways to help them access as much air and light as possible – safely.

  • Windows that are high up may be hard to reach – and could be a potential hazard. A good solution is to fit automatic window openers. These often come with a remote control keypad, which can be mounted on a wall in a convenient location.
  • Alternatively, consider using a window pull, a long-handled tool with one end designed to loop around window handles or levers, making them easier to reach and open. They come in various lengths; buy one that will allow people to reach the window easily.
  • Ensure that curtain tracks are well-maintained and it doesn't require excessive effort or strength to pull open the curtains. You may also wish to consider curtains or blinds operated by a pull-cord, as these are generally easier to use.
  • As with windows, curtains can be set to open and close automatically (and remotely) by fitting an automatic curtain control. These devices can either be operated by a push-button handset, or the curtains can be set to open and close at specific times each day.

Furniture and storage

  • Consider re-positioning furniture – or taking away unimportant furniture – if this will make it easier to enter, exit or move around certain rooms. This may be particularly sensible if a walking aid is being used and you are thinking about potential trip hazards.
  • For items unavoidably stored in high places, have a small and sturdy stepladder handy to use. Ensure that whichever one you choose provides good support with a handrail and slip-resistant feet to help maintain balance.

More information 

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: April 2019