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Earlier this month, the chairman of the Mahindra Group of Industries had tweeted about the state of affairs at Indian airports. He wondered about the number of pre-ordered wheelchairs at the airports and tried to understand why there is a need for so much.

“Only flights to&from India at most airports have so many wheelchairs pre-ordered. Trying to figure out why. 1) Do elderly Indians travel more than others? 2) Do we have more infirm/unfit people? 3) Are we just jugaadus who order wheelchairs to get faster access through queues!?” Anand Mahindra tweeted.

Many of his followers responded by either supporting his query or answering it for him. Some were sarcastic, calling it “Indians Assisted Service – IAS” while some found it insulting. Most people were of the opinion that using the wheelchair was the easiest way for older adults to navigate the airport check-ins, especially those who were not conversant in English.

We at HappyAging gave it a thought. Why was it that Indian older adults used the wheelchair service so often? So much that we have become a laughing-stock in the eyes of foreigners?

1. Airports are too big

Most airports are huge. Even younger people and children find it tiring to walk across several feet of area to reach from one place to another. Many Indian older adults have physical illnesses that prevent them from walking too much. One in three Indian older adults suffers from some form of orthopedic problems. Problems like osteoarthritis, fractures due to falls and weakened bones in old age, and osteoporosis are the few common problems that older adults face.
These people can easily manage to walk small distances or stand around for a few minutes. But walking for long distances and standing in endless queues are really not possible for them.

2. Older adults might feel intimidated

Many Indian older adults are infrequent air travellers, many of them even travelling for the first time. These older adults might be visiting their children in foreign countries. For such people, walking into foreign airports, using foreign languages, passing immigration and other checks, plus handling their luggage and standing in endless queues on their own could be very intimidating, even if they are well-versed in English. Some airports have several queues and gates that might cause much confusion. Thus, they might avail of the wheelchair service just to get through the formalities quickly.

3. Language barrier

Many older adults, especially those from rural areas, may not know English. They might find it difficult to get their way through, especially, at the international airports. For such people, travelling by air could become a nightmare. Hence, the wheelchair service proves to be a boon, in such cases. In fact, many times their children themselves recommend using this service so that their parents can easily board the plane and travel without any hassles.

4. The service is free

Indians like free deals. Whether it is free dhania at the vegetable vendor or a free gift with your favourite health drink mix, Indians like freebies. And the wheelchair service at the airport is free. It is one of the most attractive factors for Indian older adults. That they can get a service and that too at no cost could be a major motivation for people to avail of this service.

Whatever the answer, the wheelchair service at airports is really a boon to older adults who have orthopaedic or other physical issues and cannot walk or stand for a long time.

Following your travelling dreams must not stop just because you are old. Let not huge spaces and long queues dampen your dreams. Dream on and travel hard!

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