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Preferred Mobility for Seniors: Electric Wheelchair or Scooter?

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenApril 12, 2012

By guest blogger: Jeff Anderson

You probably know whether it’s time to consider mobility options for either yourself or your loved one. Educating yourself on the pros and cons of both can help you make an educated decision about what’s right for you family.

Decreased mobility is one of the main difficulties associated with aging. According to a University of Buffalo study, 19 percent of people over age 65 are unable to walk a quarter mile. There are many ailments that can hinder a senior’s ability to walk, but arthritis is the leading cause. Stroke, multiple sclerosis, and obesity are other common causes of restricted mobility.

Seniors who struggle with mobility problems that prevent them from walking long distances often prefer electric wheelchairs or scooters to the traditional, unpowered wheelchair. Limited stamina and other health issues can make manual wheelchairs less than ideal. The first decision for seniors interested in a powered device is to choose between an electric wheelchair and an electric scooter.

Choosing Whether an Electric Wheelchair or Scooter Is Right For You

Choosing whether a wheelchair or scooter is best for you is a personal choice. There are pros and cons to both—and talking to your family physician is never a bad idea. Here is some information on both modes of transportation to help you decide what’s best for your situation:

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Electric Wheelchair — An electric wheelchair, or powerchair, is more compact and has a better turning radius than an electric scooter; making it is easier to navigate narrow doorways and tight turns. Another advantage of the electric wheelchair is that its armchair joystick does not require an upright posture like an electric scooter’s handlebars. Most electric wheelchairs can also be taken apart and stowed, while scooters usually can’t. Electric wheelchairs are also usually less expensive than scooters.

Electric Scooter Mobility scooters have their own advantages. They are more rugged and faster than electric wheelchairs, which makes them a good option for outdoor use. They can carry heavier people than electric wheelchairs, which usually have a 250 lbs. maximum. Furthermore, the scooter’s swiveling chair makes it easier to get in and out of than an electric wheelchair. Many seniors also prefer the aesthetics of a scooter- they like that they don’t look like wheelchairs.

Electric Wheelchair and Scooter Cost Comparison

Both mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs cost significantly more than manual wheelchairs. New electric scooters begin at about $600 while electric wheelchairs begin closer to $1000. But—the good news—Medicare reimburses up to 80 percent of the cost of electric wheelchairs and scooters when the senior requires one in the home.

Next Steps…

Seniors who think they could benefit from a powerchair or scooter should definitely talk to your doctor to determine exactly what kind of device is appropriate. In many cases, this conversation is long overdue, as an estimated 2.5 million Americans have unmet needs for assistive technology devices.

The gentleman on the left is riding an electric scooter while the gentleman on the left is using an electric wheelchair.

*Photos  used with creative commons attribution, via Flickr. Electric scooter photo is from Flickr user “Jon Smith” and electric wheelchair image is from Flickr user “Fairfax County”.


LaPlante, M. “Demographics of Wheeled Mobility Device Users.” Space Requirements for Wheeled Mobility: An International Workshop. University of Buffalo October 2003 Web July 2012
Electric Wheelchairs – 1800wheelchair.com

Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen
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