Ride into the future

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By Linda Reijnders

ORANJESTAD – Mobility gives you freedom, but when your feet or legs won’t work along as they should, you are limited. We may not stand still by the fact that most of us walk, run and jump around in full swing, while at a certain age your scenario might become different. Active aging however is a hot thing and seniors are not keen to be stuck on the couch no more. Donald Anthony Gonsalves, born in Curacao, resident of Spain, symbolizes active aging not only as a person, but also in his business. “I see Aruba as a future Cruise Scooter Paradise.”

Donald’s business, called EasyHire, rents mobility scooters to everybody with a walking
disability. A mobility scooter is an electrically-powered chair on wheels with a steering wheel or handle. “I will start with this service at the Main Cruise Terminal in Oranjestad, but I have this business already for years in Benidorm, Spain and it is very successful.” The beach destination Benidorm is known as a favorite place for seniors to spend the wintertime and escape the cold in the Northern European countries. In that light Donald sees a parallel with Aruba.

Care Market
The recent Cruise Symposium in Aruba showed that this industry brought the island 85 million Dollars income last year and the majority of this group of tourists are seniors. “80 percent of the cruise tourists are above 50, which means a considerable number can be expected to have disability problems. But, the strange phenomenon is that this group lacks attention on Aruba. The media for example does not focus on this group while they are an important source of income, for sure if you consider also the average age of time shareholders”, says Donald. “The ‘care market’ is a concept that is common in Europe for 20 years already and it is highly profitable. With the huge senior market staying over complete winters and the short stay tourists you have fully booked hotels with mobility scooters parked in front of them.”

Aging in Place
In almost all well-developed countries the mobility scooters, or ‘powered mobility devices’,
have become more visible on our footpaths and in our shopping precincts in recent years. This reflects the growing use of mobility scooters as both a mobility aid and as a form of personal transport. Research shows that almost 50% of people aged 65 and over have some form of disability and mobility-restricting physical and sensory disabilities are the most common. Mobility scooters provide a way to facilitate an independent lifestyle for their owners and promote ‘aging in place’ and participation in the community. “Unfortunately this does not apply to Aruba where senior mobility just started to develop while infrastructure lacks when it comes to the accessibility of vehicles for the disabled.”

Mobility Scoot Tours
If Aruba wishes to fulfill the desire of the large group of disabled cruise tourists to participate in the vacation movement, some serious infrastructural alterations are necessary, explains
Donald. “Sidewalks, marked crossovers, broadened passages, accessibility to the main tourist
spots and so on are essential and not even that big a project.” He has it all figured out and
written down exactly where some infrastructural adaptions are needed. “They are countable on one hand, I took pictures of the locations.” Donald even comes up with four ‘mobility scoot
tours’ through the city center, hotel zone, around the airport and a mix of all. “The market is
there, so why not offer them their needs?”