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A Car for the Ages — Your Ages

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Remember when you were fit and spry—say 20, 40, 60 years ago? Perhaps you drove, or dreamed of driving, a sleek muscle car like aCorvetteCamaro, or GTO. Well, as they say in New York, “Fuhgedaboudit.” You’re older now, and you need a car that suits your age.

Let’s face it, as the eyes get dim and the hair goes grey ( if it doesn’t actually fade away), our motoring needs change. We’re not looking for flash, we’re looking for anti-crash. We’re looking for safety, maneuverability, comfort, roominess and, most of all, peace of mind.

 

 

That iconic advertising slogan of years past may, perhaps, have been the downfall of the Oldsmobile brand. The company unwittingly chose to make  Oldsmobiles stodgy, un-fun cars in its campaigns touting newer models. But as we get older, that may be just what we’re looking for: something we feel confident in — something with the familiarity of an old sock.

Photo by Warren Whitney

So, what should today’s seniors look for? Bear in mind that even the fittest of mature folks don’t have the reaction times of a top gun pilot. Perhaps a car with a first-class braking system may be ideal, given that we are likely to hit the brakes a fraction of a second — or even a second or two — later than we used to.

Getting into and out of a car also may not be as easy as it once was. So accessibility becomes important, particularly for the less nimble among us, or those affected by arthritis. Roominess is also a desirable factor, as is keyless entry and ignition. No more fumbling about with keys, no more trying to find the ignition, or the often painful maneuver of turning the key to start the engine.

So, what should today’s seniors look for? Bear in mind that even the fittest of mature folks don’t have the reaction times of a top gun pilot. Perhaps a car with a first-class braking system may be ideal, given that we are likely to hit the brakes a fraction of a second — or even a second or two — later than we used to.

Getting into and out of a car also may not be as easy as it once was. So accessibility becomes important, particularly for the less nimble among us, or those affected by arthritis. Roominess is also a desirable factor, as is keyless entry and ignition. No more fumbling about with keys, no more trying to find the ignition, or the often painful maneuver of turning the key to start the engine.

Resources and Recommendations

Perhaps the best way to decide on a car for your age, driving habits, skills and needs is to do some research on the Internet. Do not go to your local “friendly” car dealer for advice. Your safety is not on the top of his or her list; your money is. Speaking of which, the auto industry is keenly aware of the importance of older buyers and their ability to afford new cars.

The American Automobile Association recently estimated that there are about 20 million drivers aged 60 or older on the road in the United States, representing about 10 percent of the driving population. With the introduction of Baby Boomers to the mix, that number could double in the next 10 years or so.

If you are looking for a new car, a popular reference source is Edmunds, the Internet automobile research company. Edmunds recently published its Top 10 Vehicles for Senior for 2009, a list that includes cars, SUVS, and minivans from both the 2009 and 2010 model years.
In alphabetical order, they are:

Why were these cars chosen? Go to www.edmunds.com to find out.

A Crash-Proof Volvo?

The new Volvo XC60 compact SUV boasts an active collision prevention system called City Safety, which uses a space-age radar laser system to scan the road ahead. If a car is traveling less than 20 miles per hour and the system detects that it’s about to hit an object, it will engage the brakes up to 50% of maximum capacity. If the car is traveling less than 10 mph the system will stop the car short of the object.

LA Times automobile write Dan Neil recently wrote that Volvo claimed its cars would be so safe by the year 2020 that no one would ever die behind the wheel of one of its cars.

“Really, Volvo, no one? We live in a world where people somehow manage to get their heads caught in their electric windows and drive into very prominent things, such as oceans,” Neil wrote.

But still, it’s a step in the right direction. Newer model Mercedes-Benz vehicles also have this feature.

More Senior-Friendly Options

Also worth looking at is another Internet automobile research company held in high regard, Autotropolis. Noting that “comfort and ease of access are two of the most important needs for senior drivers,” Autotropolis chose five mini SUVs and minivans that exemplify these features.

Unlike Edmunds, Autotropolis includes manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for each vehicle, and lists them in order of merit.

  1. Chrysler Town & Country (2009)
  2. Honda Odyssey (2009)**
  3. Dodge Grand Caravan (2009)
  4. Lexus LS 460 (2009)**
  5. Toyota Sienna (2009)
  6. Ford Explorer (2009)
  7. Mercury Mountaineer (2009)
  8. Lincoln Town Car (2009)
  9. Cadillac CTS (2009)
  10. Lincoln MKX (2009)

** The only two cars to appear on both the Edmunds and Autotropolis lists.

Finally, A Word To The Wise

There is an old saying: You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

A friend moved his mother from Venezuela, where she had been the wife of an American diplomat and had never driven because she had a chauffeur, to Central Florida.

He also bought the 70-year-old lady a new Volvo, believing it would be elder friendly, and indeed it proved to be, with one exception.

In Central Florida the temperature hovers around 100 degrees in the summer, with about 100% humidity. Seven months after buying the car the man visited his mother, only to find that she had never turned on the air conditioning because she didn’t understand how it worked and was too proud or embarrassed to ask.

The moral of this story: Read the manual, or make sure the prospective driver does. If you or the driver are not the kind of person who enjoys reading manuals, spend time at the showroom and ask the salesmen to show you how each and every instrument works. Take notes, and don’t be afraid to ask again if you don’t understand. Make sure the driver does, too.

 

3 Responses to A Car for the Ages — Your Ages

  1. Shirley June 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Although I found your article very informative, especially the list of senior friendly cars -thanks, I take issue with the idea that older adults need to trade in the “cool” factor for “elder friendly” features. As people age and grey and their sight dims, some need the “cool” factor to feel good. In fact some of the cars you list are considered cool. So please don’t write off the “fun” in a cool senior drive!

  2. susan litle October 23, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    i personally can not picture senior citizens getting into some of these cars u have listed.
    mini vans and suvs are not senior citizen approriate. with poor vision and arthritis they should be very wary of what type of
    vehicle they are trying to purchase.

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