Contrary to popular belief, becoming frail is not a natural progression of aging. But when the elderly are having balance issues, or decreasing mobility, it may be time to consider a mobility aid. While a cane or walker is often sufficient, an older adult may need a motorized scooter or an electric wheelchair. So, how do you know which is best for your loved one?
Motorized scooters and electric wheelchairs have similar functions, but there are distinct differences in both their operation and suitability for specific individuals. Because the level of mobility and physical condition will dictate whether a scooter or electric wheelchair is best, an assessment from a medical provider is necessary. This is especially important to be eligible for Medicare coverage.
This assessment is usually done by a primary care doctor in conjunction with an occupational therapist. The assessment determines the elderly person’s overall functioning level, balance, upper body strength, lower extremity function and grip strength. From the assessment, the medical provider will know if a scooter or wheelchair is the best choice.
What You Should Know About Motorized Scooters
Motorized scooters are similar to a wheelchair but are for seniors with some lower extremity function and ability to sit upright without support of the back and neck. Motorized or electric scooters are available in several models with basic features. Their seat is built on a wheeled platform and the operational controls are mounted on a column at the front, called the tiller. The base unit supports the feet and houses the drive system and battery.
Different models include three-wheeled and four-wheeled options. The four-wheeled version of a motorized scooter offers more stability and is usually recommended for outside terrain. The three-wheeled scooter has more maneuverability and is designed for those spending more time inside. Motorized scooters are typically far less expensive than electric wheelchairs and are more compact, taking up less space in the home.
Is an Electric Wheelchair Right for You?
Electric or power wheelchairs are designed for seniors with less mobility, overall strength, and requiring more support. The seats on power chairs have more surface area, with a tall back, offering much more support for your back and head. For those with less arm and grip strength, the power chair’s controls are located at the end of the armrest which allows for an easier reach than using the handle bars on a scooter.
Electric wheelchairs are available in front-, mid- and rear-wheel drive with each having specific handling features. Front-wheel drive are easy to maneuver and can be used both indoors and outdoors. The mid-wheel drive is best for navigating indoor spaces. The rear-wheel drive model provides the most stable ride.
Power chairs, especially those with lots of customized features, can cost up to $15,000. They also require a vehicle large enough and equipped for transport and in most cases, ramps in and outside the home will be needed.
How to Choose a Mobility Aid
Several factors go into deciding which mobility aid is best for an elderly adult requiring assistance. The assessment will be a primary factor, but there are personal choice considerations. When you begin shopping for a scooter or power chair, it’s important to find a reputable dealer to make an informed choice.
“It’s important to have reliable information when making your purchase,” explains Linda Werner is the VP of marketing for Revolutions, Inc., the parent company of SpinLife.com, an online company selling mobility aids and assistive devices. “Our staff undergoes rigorous training and has extensive knowledge in the industry. Every one of our associates has at least 10 years in the home medical equipment sector.”
Like most mobility aid organizations, SpinLife offers a variety of affordable payment options for product financing.
What are your biggest concerns about choosing a mobility aid – motorized scooters vs. electric wheelchairs?