Scooters at one time were nonexistent in long-term care, even in independent living. Now, however, through sales techniques such as, “9 out of 10 customers got their electric wheelchair at little or no cost”; or “Medicare paid most of the electric wheelchair expense,” it has been made easier than ever for seniors to obtain a scooter.
The impact of scooters moving into long-term facilities is tremendous to the interior design of the space. Considerations for wall protection are a must as is where these scooters will be parked during meal-time. It is already difficult to manage the amount of walkers and wheelchairs in the dining room at meal time. Now we need to add in scooters and the difficulty in stack storing them.
In certain homes we have designed, our clients have special license plates on the scooters so that certain residents can park closer to a dining area than others based upon physical need. There have also been stories of residents who sup-up their “rides,” which can cause extreme damage to walls and corners and create issues with other residents. I am not sure how this is done but I have been told by many administrators that some residents are doing it.
On the Scooter Store Web site alone there are 29 models and some that can handle up to 500 lbs. Three- and four-wheelers are also becoming popular and can go up to 8 mph. These can be as large as 61 inches in length and 35.5 inches in width making it difficult to get through a standard 36 inch door, with a turning radius of 71 inches.
To sum up this growing issue, we need to consider how parking is handled, how to properly protect walls and corners, and how large door widths should be to accommodate turning radiuses of scooters.
The manufacturers are selling freedom no differently than Harley Davidson sells freedom to middle-aged men. I can see in the future that as the baby boomers develop a need for these they will be “pimping their rides” and mandating that we consider scooter use in our designs of future long-term care homes.