This post is part of a three-part series that explains elder friendly features for cars.
Anyone with a passing interest in the relationship between the aging body, biomechanics, ergonomics, efficiency, safety, and technology will likely find the way in which seniors interact and associate with motor vehicles fascinating. The car isn’t just another everyday gadget that we buy simply to enhance our quality of life like a coffee maker or a blow dryer; motor vehicles, which are potentially dangerous machines, provide a necessary service – transportation.
Yet driving is a privilege, not a right; to maximize safety it is to crucial to find a car with the right features and design. This point is non-negotiable, particularly for senior drivers. Older adults are statistically at a disadvantage in terms of eye-hand coordination, auditory acuity, cognitive processing, and spatial recognition — all important factors for driving.
This doesn’t mean that seniors can’t drive or shouldn’t drive; it’s just that aging adults need to be aware of their unique biomechanic deficiencies. If your eye-sight competency is failing or if you could barely hear noises, then you should not be behind the wheel to begin with. However, if your age-related complications are a bit more nuanced, then you just need to take certain precautions. To become a safer, more responsible driver, seniors can compensate for their inadequacies by looking for vehicles with specific elder friendly features.
What Seniors Should Look for in a Car to Maximize Safety
Collision prevention systems are quite rare but that shouldn’t take away from their utility or appeal. Collision prevention systems employ a radar that tracks the distance and speed of the cars in the general vicinity, ensuring that you stay a safe distance from your neighbors on the road. Lets say the car in front of you has to suddenly break, a collision prevention system will make sure you were far enough from the other car to begin with, helping to preclude an auto-accident. This is a particularly valuable feature for seniors with slow eye-hand coordination and delayed reaction times because it helps to maximize safety precautions.
The Volvo XC60 is equipped with a top of the line collision prevention system; the radar renews its calculations 50-times-per-second in order to accurately register the constantly changing conditions on the road.
Aging adult begin to loose inches from their height after the age of 40. Consequently, seniors on average are shorter than the rest of the adult population. Shorter drivers need to be aware of how to compensate for their height (or lack there). They should look for cars with adjustable pedals, which allow one to alter the distance of pedals from the floor and bring them closer to the feet. Being too far from the pedals is a grave cause for concern, as it slows down the time it takes to press down on a pedal.
Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
The adjustable pedals on the Grand Caravan can be moved back and forth with the push of a button. These adjustable pedals can be arranged in the proper position electronically, so you don’t have to deal with manual fiddling, making the whole adjusting process that much easier.
It’s common to take automatic transmissions for granted, as most of us – elderly or otherwise – don”t drive stick shifts. Automatic cars free drivers from the all consuming task of constantly changing gears throughout the course of a trip. At the end of the day, automatic vehicles are easier to drive. This is an especially essential feature for seniors to look for when purchasing a car. As older adults have difficulty multitasking, automatic driving minimizes the number of objectives at hand and allows the driver to look out for potential distractions. Audi A8The truth be told is that most all cars, including the Audi A8, come with the option of automatic transmission. Yet, this car goes above and beyond the basics, as it is furnished with a luxurious and effective six speed automatic transmission. Global Positioning SystemYou might have heard about this feature by its acronym – GPS. A global positioning system calculates your location via satellite and provides efficient, reliable directions so can get to your ultimate destination. These systems are most effective when they provide both auditory information (through a speaker) and visual aid (on an accompanying LCD screen). Its most basic function is to help prevent you from getting lost. The GPS driving experience is of the utmost importance for many seniors who might have trouble memorizing directions or reading them off a piece of paper while driving. Toyota Prius IVIn addition to providing standard directions, the Prius navigation system briefs you on your distance from the final-destination in terms of miles and estimates how long it will take to get there. Furthermore, you can opt for the shortest route (in terms of distance), the quickest route (in terms of miles), or what might be considered the safest route (no freeways.)Adjustable Driver”s SeatA driver needs to have a complete visual command of the road in order to look out for pedestrians, traffic signals, and other cars. If you can”t see the dashboard in its entirety, then you are putting yourself at an increased risk. As adults begin to loose inches from their height after the age of 40, they get a bit shorter. Thus, the vertically-impaired need to make sure their gaze is adequate enough to have a reliable visual command of the road. There are two basic ways to rectify this problem: getting a car with a tall seat or getting a car with an adjustable seat. Out of the two options, we prefer the latter, as you can customize the seat for your height. BMW 7 Series As part of the BMW 7 Series, this car comes with adjustable front seats, for not only the driver but also the passenger. Impressively enough, the seats can shift in 20 different directions to help compensate for vertical height limitations. Backup Camera Display/ Rear Parking Camera You can”t really go wrong with a pair of eyes on the back of your head, and that”s what a backup camera display (also known as a rear parking camera) is there for. These cameras usually provide a wide-angle or fisheye lens, which essentially enhance horizontal viewpoints. The camera is pointed downwards so the driver could avoid hitting otherwise-hard to spot obstacles. Having the ability to see what”s directly behind you makes backing out of a driveway and parallel parking that less taxing. It”s common for your spatial reasoning skills to decline as you age, so any sort of extra-assistance is worthwhile.Honda CR-VThe CR-V camera automatically turns on when the car starts to drive in reverse, which thankfully provides the driver with one less task to worry about. Due to the car”s relatively small size, this SUV is particularly easy to park.In Terms of Comfort: Keyless IgnitionIt sort of looks like a key, it sort of acts like a key, but a key isn”t actually involved. The door and the ignition are automatically “unlocked” when you approach the area with the key-like object. And when you are ready to turn the car on, all you have to do is press a start button. No need to worry about getting the key stuck in the ignition. Seniors with arthritis will find the keyless ignition a noteworthy feature, as they don”t have to deal with the painful minutia of twisting and turning a key in the right direction. A keyless ignition also functions as a safeguard against car thefts. Lexus LS 460Even with a luxury vehicle like the LS 460, the keyless ignition is more than just a fancy gadget that is bound to impress your passengers. This Lexus model provides drivers with convenience and pain free-driving. As Marcy O”Koon, editor of Arthritis Today, explains, “”Would people with arthritis pay more for cars with push-button ignition? Absolutely.” Power Door LocksPower door looks allow the driver (or often the front passenger) to either lock or unlock all of the doors by simply pressing a button or flipping a switch in a certain direction. One can control power door locks from either inside the car, or outside of it by holding down a button on a remote control key fob. This sort of central locking system is an asset for senior drivers with limited mobility and flexibility, who can”t reach all the way across the car or don”t want to walk all the way around the vehicle to deal with locking up. Infiniti G SedanPower door locks, which can be activated from both the outside and the inside of the car, are something of a standard feature with luxury vehicles. The G Sedan is no different but comes with a nice additional feature: if you accidentally unlock the car while you are walking away from the vehicle, and the door goes untouched for a few minutes, the door is automatically re-locked. Heated Seats Heated seats are a nice feature for those of us with bad, achey backs. Older adults are prone to throbbing back conditions due to possibly arthritis or a lifetime”s worth of poor posture. While heated seats do not guarantee long-term solutions, they will most likely provide our back aches with temporary relief.Mercedes-Benz S550If you have back pain and need some relief while driving, then the S550 is your best bet. Not only does it come with the standard heated seats feature, but the vehicle also boasts a massaging system.In Terms of Ease:Voice Command SystemSimply put – voice command makes driving that much easier. By enabling the voice control for bells and whistles like the mP3 player, text messaging, and Bluetooth phones, drivers can concentrate on more important matters at hand, like the road itself. This is a particularly appealing feature for older drivers, as seniors are generally less adept with the fine art of multi-tasking. Ford EscapeThe Ford Escape comes with the impressive Ford Sync system, which was dually developed by Ford and Microsoft as a voice command to control a car”s features. Ford Sync is not just for entertainment purposes though, it also can make direct 911 calls in case of an accident and comes with traffic, direction, and information services. Adjustable Steering Wheel The adjustable steering wheel can be divided into two main types: the tilt wheel and the telescope wheel. The tilt moves the wheel in an up and down motion. Additionally, a telescope wheel can be adjusted in numerous positions, in various directions. The tilt and the telescope are not mutually exclusive though, as many cars provide both the tilt and the telescope wheel together. This happens to be the ideal option for aging adults that need to worry about proper posture, a common concern for the elderly. Instead of hunching over in a series of unnatural and uncomfortable positions, an adjustable steer wheel will essentially bring the wheel in line with the proper body alignment. Toyota Avalon The Avalon might not be the fanciest car around but it is equipped with both the power tilt and the telescope steering option. In other words, if you are looking for a simple, basic vehicle but need adjustable steering, then the Avalon might just do the trick. Spacious Trunk You might be asking yourself, why exactly is a spacious trunk an elder friendly feature? The reason are a lot less complicated than you might think: many seniors need the assistance of walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters. And for those that don”t need mobility aids, having a large trunk comes in handy for storing and transporting gear. like golf clubs or luggage. Consequently, having a car that can easily store these sorts of hefty objects is a definite plus. Mercury Grand MarquisFor all intensive purposes, the trunk on the Mercury Grand Marquis is spacious. Equipped with 20.6 cubic feet of space, the trunk is the largest in its class (standard six-passenger. large car). There is ample room for all sorts of big and bulky objects; no need to travel lightly. Self-parking Parallel parking is a daunting task, but, due to limited parking spots in larger cities, many drivers cannot avoid it. This is especially an issue of concern for seniors, who have commonly poor depth perception and lack acute spatial reasoning — the skill set needed to be an effective and safe parallel parker. Yet, certain cars can help to compensate for these age-related declines by actually parking themselves. Push a button, sit back, and let the car take car of your parking needs. Lexus LS 460L With the Lexus 460L, you drive past a parking spot at less than 12 miles an hour, and sonar sensors detect the parameters for the available spot. There is a little button to press that initiates Advanced Parking Guidance System mode, backing up the car into the appropriate spot, and then finally announcing that the parking job is complete. In Terms of Economy: