Are Electric Scooters Right for Seniors?

Aging in place has become the focal topic for most healthcare professionals over the past several years who primarily work with the elderly population. With this, mobility options have changed, and the days of being bed-bound or dependent on caregiver support for mobility are no longer the only option. Electric scooters for seniors are mobility devices that have become more adaptable. Hundreds of models now exist from sitting to standing, size, as well as variations of wheel options. Shopping for an electric scooter does not require a medical sign-off, but it has posed whether we are compromising elderly safety for false independence.

Why do I need an electric scooter?

A mobility scooter for seniors is a dedicated assistive vehicle that allows individuals with trouble walking to perform tasks requiring mobility.

The use of an electric scooter can vary depending on the individual's medical necessity, comfort, and overall perceived need. According to ADA.gov, factors to consider include deficits in the senior's mobility, circulatory function, respiratory, and/or neurological disabilities.

Listed below are some common medical measures that can impede an individual's ability to walk:

  • Amputation
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • COPD
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus (types 1 and 2)
  • Stroke
  • Arthritis

When a major medical event occurs requiring hospitalization, most seniors will have guidance from their medical team such as doctors or physical/occupational therapists when selecting the proper mobility device.

Medicare also offers specific guidelines for coverage of an electric scooter under Part B, Medigap, and Medicare Advantage plans that can offset some or all of the costs.

Sometimes, a senior may not have a medical event, but age-related changes and the benefits of an electric scooter will improve their overall quality of life. A study conducted by the Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation concluded that a mobility scooter was beneficial for the elderly and their caretakers. It gave an increased sense of freedom, improved quality of life, and eased the burden of completing everyday tasks.

General safety guidelines

Scooter safety for seniors varies depending on the type and model chosen. General safety guidelines include first evaluating one's overall functional ability.

Factors to consider when deciding if an electric scooter is right for you include:

  • Ability to safely transfer on and off an electric scooter (ability to stand or slide board/scooter transfer is necessary).
  • Sitting balance is essential for individuals who are unsteady when sitting. They may have difficulty operating an electric scooter and are at a greater risk for falling.
  • The correct body weight for the model purchased is recommended to be at least 20 pounds less than the maximal weight capacity.
  • Ability to learn and remember how to use equipment (i.e. decreased cognition with Alzheimer's or mild to severe dementia wouldn’t be recommended due to decreased safety for both user and others).
  • Ability to transfer the electric scooter for away-from-home use.
  • Protective gear when riding a standing scooter. Helmets, elbow and knee pads are recommended.
  • Inclusion of internal safety features such as a quick shut off or automatic brake when off for safe transfers.
  • Suitable living quarters if the scooter will be used indoors.
  • Adequate storage space to prevent tripping and other hazards.
  • Charging time and battery life should be considered, especially for long-time daily use.
  • Is there training available for the selected scooter?

Where can I get an electric scooter?

Without a significant medical event, the consumer can only find the right electric scooter. Scooter pricing can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, so it is vital to make clear goals when purchasing.

Best practices include talking to your primary care physician to discuss moving forward using an electric scooter. Some providers can prescribe outpatient therapy to work directly with movement experts to help improve current function and assist you in navigating resources and/or connect you with assistive technology representatives to be appropriately fitted to the best electric scooter for you. If this option isn’t available, several online resources exist for researching and purchasing motorized scooters for the elderly. It is essential to find unaffiliated resources such as the Ergonomics Health Association rather than just company-specific reviews that generally market their products only.

Further considerations

Depending on where the senior lives also impact the use of electric scooters. Laws vary worldwide, and it is best to check with the community where you will be operating your electric scooter for the most up-to-date information. Urban cities are starting to make headway on creating roads and pathways dedicated to electric scooters; however, laws are still changing due to the increased use of such scooters.

Currently, in the US, laws differ from state to state, and there are different requirements based on the speeds of electric scooters. Emphasis is placed more on two-wheeled electric scooters built for higher speeds between 15–20 MPH, where requirements such as a driver's license, protective equipment, and specific roads are used.

If you are considering a two-wheeled electric scooter, you need to check with your local DMV for specific requirements. If the intention is to use a class 2 or class 3 scooter, then fewer requirements for legal use are required, but safety recommendations should be followed.

Class 2 and class 3 scooters
Class 2 mobility scootersClass 3 mobility scooters
PortableLarger vehicle (unable to fold or collapse)
Top speed is 4 MPHTop speed is 8 MPH
Indoor/outdoor use Outdoor use (includes safety features like lights, horn, side mirrors, etc.)

Electric scooters offer an alternative means of mobility for seniors. As with all assistive devices, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is important to properly research the functional ability and needs of the senior investing in an electric scooter to ensure maximum use of the scooter, enhance the mobility, quality of life, and independence of the senior.

FAQ

Key takeaways:


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.

Comments

Anthony Foster
prefix 18 days ago
Good article! It was well rounded, inclusive and informative on deciding whether a scooter will be a good fit for each individual senior.