Swimming is an excellent form of physical therapy for all ages. Since it is a low impact activity it is perfect for the elderly and handicapped, and others suffering injuries and mobility conditions. Swimming offers people a healthy way to exercise without stressing their muscles, tissues, bones and ligaments which, because of their condition, they are unable to sustain. Being able to use a swimming pool helps them rebuild muscle and tissue, and regain the use of many of their atrophied facilities. However a significant drawback is swimming pool accessibility, which is a handicap to people with limited mobility. Fortunately there are different types of disabled lifts to help this group of people overcome obstacles. A pool lift is an invaluable asset which allows physically challenged and elderly people to enter a swimming pool safely. It is perfect for those who are wheelchair bound, require crutches, leg braces or mobilized personal assistant aids. By installing a pool lift you provide opportunity for elderly, disabled and handicapped people to utilize a swimming facility with confidence, and improve their quality of life. The importance of a pool lift cannot be understated. By March 2012, according to ADA regulations all commercial businesses which offer swimming pool access will be required to install a swimming pool lift.
What are the requirements for a pool lift?
Following are the requirements of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) for pool lifts for the disabled and elderly.
- A pool lift should facilitate unaided operation so the individual can use the lift without assistance to the extent possible.
- There should be clear deck space of at least 60 x 56 inches on the front and one side of the lift at least to allow the user free and easy access to the lift.
- It should be so designed so transfer to the seat should happen at least 12 inches from within the deck edge and not over water.
- The lift seat must be 17 inches above the pool deck which is considered the most convenient height for the average individual.
- The seat width must be at least 19 inches, considered to be a comfortable and safe size.
- The lift seat should be provided with a footrest for the benefit of users with restricted control over their lower limbs.
- The seat should be fitted with armrests. The one on the deck side should be movable to enable transfer. Armrests provide the stability needed when the lift is moving.
- The lift should have controls at both water and deck level so users are able to operate the lift when entering or exiting the lift.
- The user should be able to control the lift with one hand without having to grasp, twist or pinch the wrist. These motions might not be within the capacity of some users which will restrict their usage.
- The lift must be able to descend from between 18 and 20 inches below water level which is considered a safe distance for most users.
- The lift should be rated to carry up to 300 pounds to cover the weight of the majority of users.
What types of pool lifts are commonly available?
The market offers a range of pool lifts which meet the stipulated handicapped and elderly user guidelines. These meet different requirements – they can be permanently installed; semi-permanent – where they are anchored to a base and can be removed; or portable lifts where stability is provided by a counter-weight system. The advantage in a portable lift is that it can be used at any point on a pool deck.
There are no-frill lifts that are simple and straightforward, merely lowering and raising the users, and there are more complex designs with turning functions. Some lifts operate vertically while others operate at an angle. If you are planning to invest in pool lift it’s a good idea to first decide which kind suits you best.
How are the lifts powered?
In general there are three types – battery operated, water operated using a hydraulic principle, and manually operated. Water operated pool lifts have a limitation since they are fixed to the construction. Manual lifts are generally powered by pumping a hydraulic cylinder or by rotating a crank. Obviously a manually operated lift would require assistance.
What does a pool lift cost?
Depending on your selection, expect to pay anything from $3,000 onwards. There are several dealers of pool lifts. The best way of locating them and seeing what types they offer is by surfing the internet.