By Bill Primavera
Sometimes people do a disservice when they provide helpful information. I rue the day when a friend pointed out to me that I could be informed of my daily physical activity by hitting the heart on my iPhone.
As far as flights of stairs go, I’m hopeless. When I lived in a two-story house, I bounded up the stairs and descended countless times during the day and night. Now that I live in a one-floor condo, I have taken no flights of stairs, even though I live on the fifth floor.
As a realtor in northern Westchester and Putnam County, I am always sure to point out the issue of stairs to senior buyers who should be thinking about the years ahead when they buy a home or condo. There comes a point in all our lives where one-level living becomes an advantage.
While stairs provide a very practical function as a means of ascending or descending from one level to another, they can be dramatic architectural statements in a home, from soaring, floating staircases in a central hall to modern circular stairs, winding around a column to a higher floor. Did you ever wonder why circular stairs wind counterclockwise when all of us tend to do things in a clock-wise pattern? Read on to find out.
From castles to humble cottages, stairways have allowed more living space under the same roof by providing a means to get to another floor. Unless you live in a ranch-style home or a one-level apartment or condo, you climb stairs.
Some of us love the transition from one living space to another (“I can’t sleep on the same floor where I eat,” one buyer client told me), while others, especially our more mature citizens, seek senior community living that boasts “no steps.”
Besides their architectural and practical contributions to a home, stairs also add to incidents of accidents, and even death, in the home.
All too often, many of us take a dive down a stairway. Maybe it’s because we’re in a different mode of balance when we are shifting our weight up or down. Actually, if you’ve noticed, it’s easier to climb steps than to go down them, even if the physical effort is greater when we climb. My theory is that we achieve better balance on the balls of our feet when climbing. We seem to be uncertain about which part of our foot to place on the step going down, especially for people with feet that are larger.
I’m personally very conscious of the possibility of accidents on the stairs, perhaps because of an imprinted memory. When I was less than two, my mother tells me that I opened a door to the basement and plunged down the steep staircase, hitting my head on the concrete floor at the bottom. When I behaved oddly as a teenager, my mother had an excellent excuse to say, “That fall on your head when you were a baby must have caused some damage!”
When my daughter was at a play date with other girls at a neighbor’s home, I remember the panic and fear when I received that call saying that she too had fallen down a flight of basement steps. She too is all right. Maybe it’s a generational thing.
Tragically enough, more than 15,000 people die each year as a result of falls, and as many as 1,300 of those take place by falling down steps. Additionally, many people suffer injuries on stairs that frequently go unreported, making injury statistics harder to pin down.
Interestingly, many accidents happen when there is an uneven step. Actually, this had been done intentionally in the distant past as a security measure to trip up thieves when entering or leaving a home.
Now here’s the reason that circular or curved staircases are designed in a counterclockwise pattern. As we know from old Errol Flynn movies, in the Middle Ages it was critically important to safeguard the castle. With stairs intentionally designed counterclockwise, the defender of the castle, on a higher level of the stairs, could swing his sword freely in the open space to his right, but his enemy below would keep hitting the wall to his right with the same action.
The subject of stairs is very broad. I’d like to narrow down a bit with a resolution that, starting tomorrow, I’ll climb the steps to my condo, rather than taking the elevator. Note that I’ve put it off until tomorrow.
Bill Primavera is a publicist, journalist and realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). You can engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale by calling 914-522-2076.