After a rigorous 10 years of extensive research, design and development, London-based design studio Pearson Lloyd, led by Luke Pearson and Tom Lloyd, has launched Flow X, a revolutionary new stairlift that puts ergonomics, aesthetics and user experience at the forefront of its design. Developed for mobility specialist Access BDD, a division of the global tech company TK Elevator, Flow X is a technologically advanced mobility solution that is the first-of-its-kind product that combines functionality and form, with one goal in mind – to transform lives for the better.
The Flow X design is the result of Access BDD’s international competition to find a design team to create the next generation of stairlift. As the winning agency, Pearson Lloyd saw opportunities both for user-centered design and to aesthetically reinvent an overlooked product, hoping to overcome the wider stigma attached to the stairlift by both designers and consumers.
For most design studios, designing a stairlift is far from the top of their to-do list – but that’s precisely what attracted Pearson Lloyd to the project. Today’s design world focuses on the creation of attention-grabbing, marketing-driven products, rather than solving real-life problems. As a result, aesthetic and user-centered innovation in less glamorous product categories such as medical and mobility tends to come slowly, if at all. A stairlift is a product of necessity, not aspiration. Few people actively want a stairlift in their home so, historically, few studios have wanted to design one.
Patented ASL (Advanced Swivel Levelling) technology ensures the seat and footrest rotate together, maintaining optimal distances between the chair and the staircase and enabling the user to get on and off without twisting their body. A unique folding mechanism (with automatic and manual options) at the heart of the design means that the chair takes up minimal space on the stairs when not in use, and, importantly, allows the user to park the stairlift without bending the back and knees.
Flow X’s innovative arms unfold to provide support for sitting and standing, and can unfold fully to allow easy side access from a wheelchair. All user-operated controls are located on the arms, which rotate from an elevated yoke attached to the chair’s central spine and curved, supportive backrest. The resultant space beneath the arms allows freedom of the legs and hips while the user is seated.
The controls have been designed to be as simple and intuitive as possible. The unique joystick is easily manipulated by any part of the hand or wrist, and the buttons and indicator lights have been carefully placed to be visible and operable in any position. Flow X also incorporates a built-in call function that allows three phone numbers to be programmed in, enabling users to contact family, friends and medical/care teams. They can also answer incoming calls while the chair is moving.
Like many mobility and medical products, stairlifts have historically been heavily engineered solutions, with little priority given to design, aesthetics or comfort. This has often resulted in a poor user experience that has discouraged the less able-bodied from installing stairlifts until the need has become unavoidable – usually after repeated falls and injuries. Often, individuals prefer to give up the family home and move to single-level living spaces rather than stomach the stigma of a stairlift.
By focusing on the user experience and optimising what is possible from an engineering perspective, Pearson Lloyd and Access BDD have created a product that people needn’t be ashamed to install in their homes, enabling them to retain their independence and stay there longer. Given that remaining in one’s own home statistically produces better longevity outcomes and quality of life than going into care, anything that can be done to increase the acceptability of stairlifts is hugely beneficial.
The population of adults aged 60 and over is growing rapidly, and will soon exceed that of under-fives. With a new generation of discerning, design-aware, tech-literate seniors on the rise, Flow X is one of the first stairlift products designed specifically to meet the physical and emotional needs of this increasingly independent audience.
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