Old Age, Re-designed
A grumpy analysis of future trends from a member of the Grumpy Generation.
Back in the days when resort hotels were the place to go for vacations, there was usually at least one old lady in a wheelchair staying at the hotel for protracted periods. She might appear at tea with her silent attendant, and occasionally the evening lecture, and smile at a few passers-by who said hello. Rumor would have it that she owned a Fortune 500 company or some equivalent mark of distinction. Nowadays, however, the wheelchair attendant has been replaced by the Kiddie-Kart, or go-cart, or golf cart. A rechargeable battery supplies the power, and lots of old folks tootle around most retirement villages, only mildly embarrassed by the notice they receive. Just outside the dining room, you can expect to find a go-cart garage, with eight or ten of them parked during dinner. For the most part, polished within an inch of their lives, they look brand-new.
Everybody has shoes, and almost every senior will eventually get an electric cart.
The economics of such go-carts is somewhat skewed. They cost about two thousand dollars, but Medicare will pay half of that. Since everyone who wants to get one is able to get the same Medicare allowance, there's not much of a second-hand market. After all, everybody is able to get a new one worth two thousand for a net one thousand dollars, so why would they pay several hundred for just an old one without a warranty? No doubt, the people who haunt Internet auctions have got something figured out. The owners of these things are glad to volunteer they believe Medicare makes it deliberately difficult to negotiate the paperwork, but in fairness people of this age group quite readily find such things to be an obstacle. No doubt the nice young lady at the go-cart store can suggest workarounds. The go-carts seem to be quite sturdy. My sister-in-law by marriage went to India in a go-cart, traveling all around the normal tourist sites. She had once lived in India for several years, so she knew the situation and had local friends. Similar trips by other seniors can therefore not be encouraged, but the story does suggest cripples can be much more independent with this sort of transportation than most people would have guessed. There are resort communities in Florida where regular automobiles are prohibited, and everybody tootles around in golf carts redecorated to look like Volkswagens, or even with Rolls Royce radiator fronts. When you see teenagers at a beach resort riding these carts, you know all stigma has disappeared.
Originally published: Wednesday, July 15, 2009; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2019