Aunt Azelda wants to watch the sunset from the end of the Ocean Beach Pier. She’d like to get a glimpse of the baby hippo at the zoo. Most of all, she wants to graze her way through the Gaslamp’s happy hours in her search for the perfect Old Fashioned.
The dilemma? Auntie is slowing down in her golden years. The third-of-a-mile walk to the end of the pier leaves her out of breath and dreading the walk back. The hippo pool is at the far end of the zoo and down a big hill. And popping in and out of bars isn’t as easy as it used to be. Though I never thought I’d hear it, the other day she said, “Eve, I’m thinking of getting one of those old-timer scooters or an electric wheelchair. I’ve never wanted to be an old lady on a scooter, but I want to keep moving. I’m going to swallow my pride and get some wheels.”
I offered to help her find a deal.
“We offer electric and manual wheelchairs and scooters,” said Carol, a partner at Ashley Medical Howards Mobility in Hillcrest (619-297-1983; ashleymedical.com). “If someone is going on a cruise or they’re here to see a graduation and the youngsters walk a little bit faster, they would use the scooter. The scooter is better for outdoor use. The electric wheelchair [also called a power chair] is designed more for indoor use — it’s more of an expensive device. People with a long-term disability will usually go for the electric wheelchair. We usually will not rent a power chair to an inexperienced user because people end up in swimming pools.”
How fast are the wheelchairs?
“Any of the devices go about four to five miles per hour. You don’t want them going faster than that because then they become a danger to pedestrians.”
There are many options in the wheelchair department. “There are bariatric wheelchairs [designed for more than 250 pounds], there are small, standard ones that can be put in the trunk of the car, and there are ones that have to be delivered because they don’t dismantle. The bigger the chair, the more comfortable it is.” Terrain is a consideration. “For La Jolla, we will offer a bigger chair because of the inclines. You have to think of safety.”
The power chairs rent for about $200 a week and up, depending on the chair. A monthly rental is around $400 to $450. Scooters cost $125 a week or about $300 a month.
“We offer a travel program,” offered Terry Racciato, president of SpecialCare, located in Kearny Mesa (858-694-5800; specialcaredme.com). “We are the provider for the airport for San Diego. Someone calls us, and we meet them at the airport or their hotel and deliver multiple pieces of equipment — a wheelchair, oxygen, scooters, those kinds of things. A nice part about renting a scooter from someone like us is that you can use it for the whole visit,” starting right at the airport. “You can go to SeaWorld and rent a scooter during the time you are at the park, but how do you get from the hotel to the car and the car to the rental place?”
What should Aunt Azelda rent, a wheelchair or scooter?
“Usually, an electric wheelchair is accommodated to a specific person. Generally speaking, you wouldn’t be renting one of those. It would be specifically set up for that individual person with a specific disability. Most likely, you would be renting a scooter. If you have two elderly people visiting the zoo, one of them is not likely to be stronger than the other to push a wheelchair up a hill. Almost invariably, we switch out to scooters. A manual-wheelchair rental for a week is $65; scooters run $125 for a week.
“We can actually put our scooters in the back of a Prius,” Racciato continued. “It breaks apart into four or five different pieces, the heaviest of which is about 20 pounds.”
Other prices around town: MobilitySource (619-234-9505; mobility-source.com) quoted $39 a week for a manual-wheelchair rental (their website states $49 a week). A scooter runs $99 for a week. Free delivery and free pickup.
Eric’s Medical Supply (619-298-9640; ericsmedicalsupply.com) in the Morena District charges $30 a week for a wheelchair rental, $60 a month. Mobility scooters run $175 per week, $225 a month.