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Cars don’t fit seniors’ needs

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Almost 90 percent of senior drivers are driving cars that don’t meet their needs for health, safety and comfort, according to a new report by AAA. The study found that drivers older than 65 commonly have decreased flexibility and muscle strength, limited range of upper-body motion and diminished vision, and that while many cars have features that can help senior drivers compensate for these issues, they aren’t driving them.

AAA has issued a variety of recommendations in its "Smart Features for Older Drivers" guide including:

  • Seat heights that are higher off the car's floor or can be adjusted so they are at least as high as the driver's mid-thigh when standing for easier entry and exit in the car.
  • Power seats that adjust six ways or more to help with hip, knee or leg problems or decreased leg strength.
  • Keyless entry and push-button start as well as thicker steering wheels for drivers with reduced grip strength in their hands.
  • Power mirrors and dashboard controls with buttons for drivers who have trouble with twisting or turning motions with their hands.
  • Larger displays with contrasting text for those with diminished vision.

Many of today's cars come standard with these features and don't require purchasing a higher-priced car, which is helpful for those who are taking on an auto loan. By looking for a car equipped with features such as these, it can lengthen the amount of time senior drivers can maintain their freedom safely and comfortably.

If you're a senior, do you have trouble driving your car? Would these suggested features help with your driving?

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.
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January 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

How bout a magnified windscreen?

January 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Well, at only 74 YO, I regularly drive my 1956 Ford truck that I restored over the last couple years. I am currently rebuilding a 1949 Ford truck that I hope to have on the road by late in 2013. I have a couple old tractors that I regularly use as well. None of these machines have any power equipment and I don't require it. Lucky and good genes, I guess. Taking care of myself all my life might have a bit to do with it. To each his own but I'll keep mine simple.
Now if I am going on an extended trip and want to run with traffic, I'll take my modern truck as I do like the comforts of AC and cruise control.

January 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I agree with Pat. I have hip and back issues, and our Honda small SUV is ideal - easy to enter and exit. I sold a small sedan I really liked because it was too difficult to enter and exit. I believe seniors should consider such vehicles (small SUV's) as alternatives to sedans. They are more comfortable, get reasonable gas mileage and still have the room to include additional family members.

January 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I am 78 and my wife is 66. We are not fans of those large SUV's or even the mini-vans (though they are a bit more acceptable). We both drive sedans. Most of them are difficult to get into due to the lack of head room available while entering. The automobile manufacturers have cut head room down significantly in what we guess is to increase gas mileage while lowering their cost to build them in the first place. Overall the ease of entering and exiting these vehicles are difficult for most seniors. The dash and console controls are diffcult to read, particularly in bright sunlight but never easy under any cicumstances for us. Letters and numbers are small and lighting is poor.

January 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

I concur with the statements made by others and would like to add: Please make head rests above the back of the drivers seat and the other head rests (can't rest head on them anyway-suppose to be for saftey, I know) lower so a driver can see out all windows. Not just the front. Windows are blocked, higher seats would help but the top of the car might have to also be a higher height as were most cars made in Anerica years ago. Thanks for letting me give an input. Still driving Made in America. Anne

Paul Fako
January 11, 2013 at 10:57 am

Of course auto manufacturers should cater to older drivers. We are increasing in numbers and a high percentage of us have adequate income to buy newer cars, some every year, while young people should be trying to build their nest egg. We are lucky enough to have time to drive around instead of work, spend our nest egg instead of saving for our now present old age (I am 77 and have been retired for 15 years),and, if you look at the roadways in the daytime, are always driving somewhere. Stop trying to be young and take advantage of the efforts of others to make our later years comfortable and fun.

January 03, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I will be 76 in March and I have had 2total knee replacements, back surgery & a quadruple bypass and I think the small SUV's are perfect for seniors. I drive a 2012 Hyundai Tucson Limited and I love it. Before that we had a 2008 Hyundai Tucson. Both of them were 4 cylinders. They are very easy to get in and out of and very comfortable to drive. We drive to Florida every year and the gas mileage is great.