The Health and Safety Executive has recently been called in to investigate a spate of freak accidents, involving 'flying pensioners', that continue to plague nursing homes in the Border regions of Scotland.
All the accidents have involved 'Happy Wrinkly Autoglyde' automated armchairs. The main function of these chairs is to gently move the user from the seated position to the standing position by means of a moveable cushioned platform. The chairs are electrically operated and utilise a series of spring loaded cantilever arms to perform this function.
The seat can be normally also be operated in reverse, gently lowering the user from the standing position to the seated position. Apparently this function was not available on the malfunctioning chairs. An orderly at one of the effected nursing homes, who wishes to remain anonymous, told our reporter:
"We should have realised that there was something wrong when it took the efforts of myself and three other male orderlies to replace the spring loaded seat once the previous occupant had been discharged. But it wasn't until we actually saw poor Mrs Murray flying through the air that we realised what was happening. We had wondered why so many old biddies were ending up bruised and bleeding - we thought they were just being over-boisterous or, maybe, fighting over who got the fudge donut?"
On first examination, it appears that the malfunctioning chairs all have excessively strong springs installed, replacing the much weaker springs that are normally installed.
Our reporter then asked the orderly to explain, further, what he saw:
"Well, the platform sprung forward like one of those launch catapults on a aircraft carrier and poor Mrs Murray was fired across the lounge like a ballistic missile, scattering a group of OAP's playing cards on the other side of the room. It was carnage, utter carnage. There were arms and legs everywhere and it took us ages to untangle all the old people. Old Mr Lovejoy looked like he was enjoying himself, though, and it took several days for his smile to fade - it was just him and four little old ladies lying in a heap on the floor."
'Happy Wrinkly' of Peebles, the company that makes the chairs, declined to make any comment until the Health and Safety Executive's report has been finalised. However, it is believed that the chairs were part of a batch interfered with by a disgruntled employee who had been censured previously for 'turbo charging' several of the company's stair lifts. On that occasion, the stair lifts were adapted to enable a transit time of 0-10 stairs in less than 1 second instead of the more normal 15 seconds. Unfortunately the stair-lifts stopped suddenly as they reached the top of the stairs and unrestrained pensioners shot out of them like Olympic High Jumpers.
An Internet Site, purporting to be that of the person responsible for both the chair lift fiasco and the pensioner-launching chairs, proclaims that the aim of the adaptations are - "To enable today's pensioners to travel higher, further, and faster than ever before."
The last word goes to a spokesman for Borders Police, who, when asked if the police were to investigate these events, said: "It's all a bit of a laugh, really. I'm thinking of getting both the chair and the stair lift for my mother-in-law?"