The time comes when a senior needs a wheelchair or mobility scooter.
Often the need comes suddenly and urgently, without time spent considering how to best fill needs.
Wrong choices are often made. Large, heavy “hallway locomotives” are frequently chosen which are difficult to maneuver and very limited in what they can do.
It is better to figure out ahead of time what will best fit your need now and in the future..
To do that, your specific needs need to be examined. This examination can be done with a few simple questions, as follows:
Where will you be using the device? In a retirement facility? At home? From a car?. Under a desk or dining table? If the latter, check both cart and table for clearance.
Using such a device is not like driving a car. You need help in learning how to use it safely.
There is less margin for error than in driving a car since you're operating in very close quarters. Backing up can by extremely frustrating. Those walking may close in on you or suddenly appear behind you.
Then, do you need a walker? Do you need to carry it on your mobility device?
In a retirement facility, that facility may require you to obtain approval before purchasing at all. The same facility may reasonably want you to be trained in use under occupational training.
In your home or apartment the device needs to be extremely maneuverable. That means not too large and bulky.
From a car the big question is how to load it. Can you handle the weight? Even wheelchairs range from 25 to 60 lb or more, normally about 35 lbs. Power scooters range from 40 lbs. up. Even a 25 pound weight can be a chore or risk for an elder.
Loading devices are extremely expensive. Vehicles which ease loading are typically the Toyotas Sienna type van or an SUV such as the Kia Soul..
What types of vehicles are available?
There are two steering choices: single hand steering stick controls on one arm, or handlebars. The former can turn on a dime; the latter cannot. There are also two transport types: those that come apart and can be loaded in pieces, and which fold up to be lugged into place.
Vehicles are classified as power chairs, mobility scooters, powered wheelchairs, and so on.
All of these considerations may mean that you need more than one piece of equipment.
The next question is whether there will be someone to assist you.
That means someone capable of pushing a wheelchair. Someone capable of lifting and moving. Someone to help at a destination if you are going a distance
The next question is where to buy.
A very important consideration is where to go if something goes wrong. Many mobility scooters are manufactured outside the United States. Do they have local support in your area? Do they have parts?
If there is support in your area, you might not think about buying one from Craigslist. However, this is a source IF you are careful about the process. For a long time these vehicles were paid for under insurance, used for a short time, and something to be got rid of for a low price thereafter.
Providers can be found in unlikely places. These include resorts near casinos and hotel complexes. There are providers with offices in many casinos and resorts, such as in Brigantine, New Jersey, for Atlantic City and King of Prussia ,or in Orlando Florida for the Disney Resorts and others.
These providers not only sell but rent deliver and repair a variety of brands of vehicles and even are Factory Authorized for some.. Check that out.
The last question is what do I recommend...
I recommend an extremely small mobility chair to get around in tight places and also separately a folding device for transport in a vehicle. Two vehicles, since there is no single vehicle which meets all requirements yet.
Specifically, I recommend the Pride Go Chair. This device is actually separate from a normal mobility vehicle which is also made by Pride. It was developed in Pennsylvania and in is very wide use. iI is also a brilliant design as simple as it looks.
Steering is in the wheels and is accomplished by powering one or both wheels with a hand control. The vehicle stops quickly when power is not applied. So: no transmission, steering gear, or separate breaks are required at all. My only beef with it is that parts heavy and uncomfortable to disassemble for transport.
So, for transport I recommend a different type of vehicle. The folding type is the best choice, especially if the vehicle can be picked up at one end and slid into a car trunk or door. I like the Luggie best, but it is not made in the US and is expensive.
Better choices may be coming. Although seniors would certainly not be using a hover board standing, these have been adapted very inexpensively with a seat and four wheels. The problem is that steering is done with the feet from pressure on the pedal.
Some of these put the seat directly over the hover board and others behind it over the back wheels. Some have separate steering controls separate from the pedals. All so far look a little too light duty and rickety.
The potential comes from having power and steering in an extremely inexpensive device which can be hopefully adapted for a reliable senior conveyance.
As for wheelchairs, costs go up sharply as the weight goes down. If there is no one there to help you, light weight might be worth the very high premium. Whereas a good wheelchair can be found for $100, light and feather weights start at about $350 and go up from there to the stratosphere.