Tuesday 19 January 2016

More elderly take to mobility scooters

By Lydia Lam, My Paper, 18 Jan 2016

SALES of mobility scooters have picked up pace here, with one retailer saying its sales have doubled in a year and another estimating that there are now "tens of thousands" of such devices in use.

Retailers whom My Paper spoke to said demand - mainly from the elderly, disabled and those with walking difficulties - has benefited from prices dipping by as much as 50 per cent in recent years.

Prices range from $1,500 for a basic model to $6,000 for a premium one.

At retailer Agis Mobility, its directors James and Andrew Lee noted that sales doubled last year to 400, compared with the year before.

Warren Chew, managing director of Falcon Mobility, said buyers are between 60 and 80 years old.

Many of them can walk but need help to cover longer distances.

On cheaper prices - a small four-wheeler costs about $1,700, versus about $3,000 in 2008, he linked this to "economies of scale as the market has grown more than 10-fold".

The mobility scooters are usually imported from China, Taiwan and the United States.

My Paper understands that they are allowed on public transport such as buses and trains, but not on main roads.

Boasting average speeds of 6kmh, they are often customised with LED lights, baskets and even portable speakers.

Such add-ons are usually done at local bike shops or by users themselves, said Vanessa Keng, director of retailer The Golden Concepts.

She estimates that there are now "tens of thousands" of such scooters, compared with the "low thousands" when they first appeared about eight years ago.

Lee Chang Xi, co-founder of The Golden Concepts, said they set up the eldercare product retail store to cater to the growing ageing population here.

Asked if the increasing number of mobility scooters would pose a problem, Ms Lee said: "Most people will follow the rules and won't go on the main roads anyway."

Organisations have rolled out schemes involving the gadget. An initiative launched by the Radin Mas Citizens' Consultative Committee in June 2014 lets residents borrow mobility scooters from its fleet of 30 for free, with about 10 being loaned out daily.

A spokesman told My Paper that the service has been well-received, with some seniors saying it makes commuting more convenient to run errands, which "improved their social engagement".

An expert panel led by the Land Transport Authority is developing a set of rules for the use of personal mobility devices including mobility scooters, set to be released by the second quarter of this year.

Trips a breeze for great-grandma, 92
By Lydia Lam, My Paper, 18 Jan 2016

SHE may be 92 but can still get around just fine, thanks to her mobility scooter.

Lily Tan Gek Hong is hale and hearty for her age but gets help from her scooter for tackling longer distances while out on trips with her family such as to the Botanic Gardens.

Madam Tan, who has four children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, exercises daily and has activities lined up every day of the week.

She rides the four-wheeler to the market where she says a fruit-seller often teases her: "Auntie, do you have a licence?"

Madam Tan also scoots along on her S19 Brio Travel Portable Scooter to church on Sundays, manoeuvring it up the ramp and parking it in a corner.

It also helps her keep up with her great-grandchildren on their kick scooters.

Wheels are in her blood, Madam Tan told My Paper.

"When I was younger, I drove a car and a scooter," she said.

Her husband, who died about 20 years ago, was a manager at car dealer Borneo Motors.

Now, her granddaughter Lee Chang Xi, 28, is the co-founder of The Golden Concepts, which sells mobility scooters and other aids for the elderly.

The foldable $2,588 model she is using now - a Christmas gift from her family - is her third.

Madam Tan said people would usually stare when they see her riding on her scooter - a habit she has adopted for about five years now.

While she was driving about in the gardens during her meeting with My Paper on Thursday, several people turned to look amusedly and most gave way to her.

The device was nimble and could scale steep slopes and traverse tight corners.

When asked where else she hopes to go to on family outings with her scooter, Madam Tan pointed to Gardens by the Bay, National Gallery Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum.

"If they'll let me in," she said, chuckling.

"Last time, if (my family) asked me to go to places where I must walk very far, I'll say no," she quipped.

"But now, with my scooter, I say yes!"

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