The use of mobility scooters is on the rise. The same is also true for wheelchairs. And if current trends are anything to go by, these devices won’t go out of fashion anytime soon.
Why are mobility scooters and wheelchairs so ubiquitous nowadays? A combination of factors which include an increasing geriatric population, lenient regulations, and ease of use are directly responsible. We discuss these factors in this article.
Increasing Geriatric Population
In the last few decades, life expectancy, thanks to commendable technological and medical advancements, has been on a steady rise. As a result, we have more aged people than before as buttressed by an overview by the Office for National Statistics which indicates that the population of people aged 65 and above in the UK increased from 9.1 million to 11.8 million between 1991 and 2016. The same report also projected this number to reach 20.4 million by 2041.
However, while science has been able to extend life expectancy, the ageing process and biological defects associated with ageing remain largely unsolved and senior citizens are particularly prone to mobility impairment. What better way to go around this problem than getting a mobility aid for them? This explains why a significantly larger proportion of the geriatric population uses wheelchairs and other mobility aid tools than the rest of the population.
High Disabled Population
An increasing geriatric population with its attendant age-related issues means that the number of people with disabilities is on the rise. The UK Government estimates that over 11 million people currently live with disability in the UK, with most of these disabilities affecting mobility. A large part of this group uses or is now embracing the use of mobility aids. And this has contributed to a surge in the use of these devices in recent years.
Whilst mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs are considered vehicles by law, the laws around their ownership and use are relaxed. They are classified into two categories: class 2 and class 3 vehicles. Anyone above the age of 14 can own and ride a scooter—no license is needed. Also, the law does not require owners to pay vehicle tax on them. Additionally, getting insurance is not mandatory although it is recommended for scooters that fall under the class 3 category.
Class 2 mobility scooters and wheelchairs cannot be used on the road and their maximum speed is capped at 4mph. In addition, they do not require registration after purchase. On the other hand, mobility scooters that are classified as class 3 vehicles can be used on the road. However, the user must not exceed 8mph. It is also necessary to register such devices.
Cheap Transport Alternative
Typically, a scooter or powered wheelchair costs less than a car. You don’t have to pay vehicle tax for owning one. Insurance isn’t compulsory. Besides, these mobility aids run on rechargeable batteries. All these combine to keep their maintenance costs low and affordable for most people.
Many students and able-bodied young people have taken advantage of this to save transport costs.
Versatile, Aesthetic and Easy-to-Use Design
Manufacturers are capitalising on this newfound popularity of scooters, wheelchairs, rollators and other walking aids, and people’s seeming affection for them by innovating new designs to lure even more people into the world of assisted mobility. While the early models were targeted at frail senior citizens, the latest designs now incorporate many features and aesthetics that make them appealing to the younger population. Apart from their suitability for different age groups, these devices are easy to use and this has also helped to drive up their popularity.
Manufacturers have made scooters and powered wheelchairs readily available for interested people in the last decade. Many trade fairs and exhibitions are now specifically organised for sellers to display their products to prospective buyers. A few years ago, Dailymail reported the presence of over 300 scooter companies at a trade fair in Birmingham.
Additionally, these machines are available in stores and supermarkets nationwide—with the option to either buy or hire. This availability has made accessibility easier, leading to a surge in their number in the country.
In recent years, mobility aids in general, and mobility scooters in particular, have come under scrutiny by policymakers, particularly concerning their use. Nevertheless, there is no doubting that they have come to stay. They could well be the pointer to the beginning of the transition to a new order where single-user miniature vehicles are the norm on our roads.