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June 05, 2014

Does Your Car Fit Your Changing Needs?

You often hear recommendations for universal design in the home; suggestions like installing trusty grab bars or replacing doorknobs with easy-to-open lever handles. But what about your car? Depending on your commute and travel needs, you might still spend a lot of time in your car. As you age, certain aspects of driving can become more difficult and less comfortable, yet few older adults have cars that address these needs.

In late 2012, AAA revealed the results of a research study that showed nearly nine in 10 seniors have a car that doesn’t fit their needs. Everyone ages differently, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model that suits every older adult. Instead, it’s up to you to determine whether or not your car passes the test.

How to Know if Your Car Can Age With You

To assess your changing needs as a driver, here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I have pain in my hips and/or legs? If so, getting in and out of your car might become a struggle as you age. You’ll be more comfortable in a vehicle that has six-way adjustable power seats and an adjustable seat height.

  1. Do I suffer from arthritis or have diminished fine motor skills? If so, certain “bells and whistles” on your car can help reduce your pain and keep you safer on the road. Look for vehicles that have keyless entry, power mirrors, locks, and windows, and a thick steering wheel for better gripping.

  1. Do I have sensitive eyes or problems with diminished vision? If so, you can find a car with features that help reduce the glare of your controls and display. Some cars have displays with contrasting texts and mirrors that dim automatically, which can be easier on your eyes and allow you to keep your focus on the road.

Since there are a myriad of other aging issues that might affect your safety and comfort behind the wheel, check out SeniorDriving.AAA.com for more information.

Other New Car Features to Consider

  • Ensure the height of your car is not too low or high. Minivans and crossovers are the ideal height for older adults with limited mobility because the seats generally hit at hip-level.

  • Interior space that can allow you and your passengers to spread out, adjust, and stretch your legs can improve your comfort level.

  • Some cars come with systems that can connect you with emergency assistance at the touch of a button. Check out Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Hyundai, or GM for options.

  • You might eventually find yourself with the need to store assistance tools like a walker, cane, or wheelchair, so trunk or storage space might be a good investment.

  • Built-in navigation centers can help take the stress of map reading or direction following off your eyes.

As your needs change, you don’t want to have to worry about your vehicle no longer suiting you. Being aware of your options before your needs become necessities can help you better prepare.

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