Aging In Place

5/22/2023 | By Donna Brody

Are mobility scooters a godsend for seniors? Are they worth the investment? Are there downsides? Seniors Guide examines top considerations in getting a mobility scooter.

A look into the use of mobility scooters brought to mind the old cartoon scenario where a “good” angel and a “bad” angel are perched on a person’s shoulders and whispering in their ear as they try to decide the best course of action in a particular situation. As with many things in life, there are both pros and cons to consider when making the decision whether or not to invest in this type of mobility aid.

The benefits

For a senior or even a younger person who has struggled with long-term mobility issues (as opposed to, say, someone who is recovering from a short-term injury like a broken ankle) a power scooter could be life changing and give the person back their independence.

“The mobility scooter is one of the most popular mobility aids today,” says disability advocate and writer Charlotte Gerber. “Many scooter users have found that they do much more than they have in years, thanks to their new-found increased mobility.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports  1 in 7 adults have mobility issues. With age, disability becomes more common, affecting about 2 in 5 adults age 65 and older.

A woman on a mobility scooter shopping in a greenhouse, by Photographerlondon. Are mobility scooters worth the money? Are there downsides? Seniors Guide examines considerations in getting a mobility scooter.

Devices like electric wheel chairs and scooters can restore a person’s ability to get from place to place quickly and once again enjoy favorite activities like shopping, going to the park, or visiting with family. Returning to these types of activities offers mental health benefits when home-bound folks again feel like a valued part of their family and community.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “Mobility scooter use increases participation in both physical and social activities outside the home that users would have been unable to participate in without using such a mobility aid. Access to these activities, via mobility aid use, may increase aspects of quality of life and wellbeing in users.”

Who should use these mobility devices?

So who are the best candidates for motorized power scooters? This type of equipment is particularly useful for people who have had difficulty using canes, walkers, rollators (walkers on wheels, usually with a seat), or crutches. Older adults who rely on oxygen tanks are another group who can benefit from using a scooter, as can people with debilitating chronic pain from arthritis or similar conditions.

Some families opt for purchasing a power scooter for their senior loved ones to help prevents falls. The CDC notes that one in four seniors fall every year. About 20 per cent of these falls cause serious injuries. And, older adults take much longer to heal from injuries sustained. Securing a mobility aid like a scooter for a loved one can provide families with some peace of mind by lessening the likelihood of a fall.

Related: The best aging-in-place products for seniors

The cons of considerations in getting a mobility scooter

As with everything, though, there are downsides to using a power scooter. The most compelling of these is whether or not the scooter affects an individual’s long-term health by replacing previous physical activities. People who were able and likely to take short walks or do other things for exercise might begin to rely on the scooter instead. Since one of the best ways to maintain mobility is by being active and mobile, relying too heavily on a scooter can more quickly decrease the user’s physical capabilities.

Some studies in the United States and United Kingdom, noting that use of a power scooter is a “passive” use of assistive technology, found links to a decline in physical health in participants 12 months after acquiring and using a scooter. One study noted an increase in glucose levels and increased incidence of diabetes, as well as a higher BMI and greater use of blood pressure medicine. Another study reported participants had a slower gait, less stamina, and a weaker grip.

Finally, prospective scooter-users must consider the cost of the device. Gerber notes that for some people, Medicare may pay for all or part of the cost of the scooter. In some cases, the individual requesting the motorized device as part of Medicare’s Durable Medical Equipment (DRE) must first secure a prior authorization from Medicare. This requirement applies to certain power wheelchairs and scooters. In other cases, all that is needed is a signed order from a primary care provider. Deductibles and co-pays still apply.

Life is full of choices. Each individual needs to weigh the considerations in getting a mobility scooter, look at the pros and cons, and determine what’s right for them.

Donna Brody

Donna Brody is a former community college English instructor who retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She enjoys freelance writing and has self published three romance novels. Besides writing and traveling with her husband, she keeps busy visiting her seven grandchildren.

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