No one likes to give up their independence, especially as they grow older. For seniors who have lost some of their mobility, a motorized scooter can become an electric equalizer, allowing them to do things like shop or take a grandchild to the park from a comfortable seated position.
As a caregiver, there are, however, some important things to know before using this piece of assistive technology.
Always Follow the Rules of the Road
Motorized scooters are designed for both indoor and outdoor use, so the operator needs to follow some basic safety rules in each environment:
Indoor Use: If a senior plans to use a scooter indoors, a three-wheel model offers excellent maneuverability. Always remember that a motorized scooter will be sharing space with pedestrians, especially in places like crowded shopping malls and theaters. The operator should keep the speed at around 5 mph in congested areas, matching the walking speed of people around them.
Outdoor Use: Four-wheeled motorized scooters can be safely used on sidewalks and in parks, but an operator with a lead foot can cause problems. The scooter should be driven conservatively to avoid tipping over—there's no need for speed with a scooter, especially the ones that can run at 12 mph. If the planned journey takes the driver over a bridge, make sure the structure can support the combined weight of the scooter and passenger.
At times, the operator will have to take the scooter into the road, which means they should drive as close to the curb as possible. When crossing a busy road, the motorized scooter driver should use marked crosswalks like other pedestrians.
Safety Courses: Those people interested in medical mobility scooters need to feel comfortable operating a motorized device. Some medical supply dealers do offer scooter training and, if your city offers safe scooter courses, it's always a good idea to sign a senior up for these.
Use a Checklist
Before taking a motorized scooter out for a spin, make sure the operator has prepared for their journey:
- The battery should be fully charged. If the power is low, leave the scooter plugged in and take them where they need to go in the car.
- If the scooter will be operated outdoors for long periods of time, make sure the driver has applied sunscreen and is wearing a hat. It's all-too-easy to get a bad burn while riding a motorized scooter.
- If purchases will be made, make sure the scooter has adequate storage space. Bags and packages should never be balanced in the operator's lap.
- If the operator is riding solo, make sure they have a fully-charged cellphone to let you know if they run into trouble on the road.
Watch Out for Scooter Scams
Medical mobility scooters have become quite popular over the last few years, especially for people who steal health care identities. WRAL in Raleigh/Durham did a feature on how motorized scooters are frequently involved in Medicare fraud cases. Phony salespeople will contact those who have Medicare coverage, obtaining enough information to file a false scooter claim and pocket the money.
Before purchasing a mobility scooter, make sure you know exactly who you are dealing with by doing some research via the Internet. Always be on the lookout for suspicious entries on a Medicare billing statement. and report any discrepancies immediately. On or off a motorized scooter, it's always important to keep the one you care for safe from harm.