As we age, our reaction time to a visual stimulus, visual acuity, muscle strength and motion typically decline. Arthritis, stroke, diabetes and other processes may compound the normal aging process. With the large number of baby boomers heading for retirement, the number of Americans aged 55-74 is projected to nearly double by 2030. Smart product designers have started adding perks to their merchandise that allow the elderly to live independently for longer periods of time.
The Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA.com) recently published a list of senior-friendly features that are helping the aging enjoy the independence that driving brings (Westways; Blueprint for Safety: These Automotive Features Help Oder Drivers Stay Safe and Comfortable Behind the Wheel; September 2008). However, not only the elderly can benefit from these additions. Those suffering from a disability or even pain from repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, or thoracic outlet syndrome should look for these features that reduce the stress of driving.
For example, those who have arthritic hands, loss of coordination, painful, or stiff fingers should look for a four-door model car since less strength is required to open and close the doors than two-door models with longer and heavier doors. It is also easier and requires less strength to use a thick steering wheel, a keyless entry and keyless ignition on the dashboard, power mirrors and seats, and larger dashboard controls with buttons.
Those with limited or painful motion in the back, neck, shoulder and arm should look for a car model with tilt and telescoping steering wheels, large and wide-angle mirrors, comfortable heated seats with lumbar supports, and adjustable easy to use seat belts.
AAA.com/seniors provides a comprehensive brochure with a long list of additional features for a variety of special driving needs. They also provide a downloadable list of all car models and makes with a checklist of available features.
Smart Features for Mature Drivers
A comprehensive list of senior-friendly features for drivers.
Brochure that outlines vehicle features that help meet the needs of mature drivers.
A list of vehicles and their options suitable for mature drivers.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy & Occupational Fitness Center in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources