The most important thing for any car we drive is that it fits us with for maximum safety and comfort.
Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN

In today’s world, there are advances in many age-friendly products and services — meaning that when things are age-friendly, they are friendly for everyone. 

Another term I’ve learned for designing age-friendly products is “universal design”. Universal design means products that are accessible for all people — regardless of age, disability or other factors. 

Over the years, I’ve noticed many advances in the automotive industry that I consider to be age-friendly, so I wanted to do a podcast focused on age-friendly cars. Many of the technology features in newer vehicles help drivers of ALL ages. 

However, when I googled “best cars for older drivers”, most of what came up had to do with seating comfort, how easy it was to get in and out of the vehicle, safety ratings, reliability and/or warranties. It was more difficult to find articles focusing on technologies that could make us all safer drivers, particularly as we get older. 

Contrary to popular belief, as we age, some of us may prefer to drive cars with all of the technology — but some older adults don’t like all the new bells and whistles — the technology they are used to is what they like. My parents are two great examples — my Dad loves technology, and my Mom wants to keep it simple. You may have gleaned from that statement that I’m more like my  Dad, but some of the technology I’ll share also keeps it simple.

With a new driver in my own family I’ve had to learn to use these technologies as a passenger, and have promised my kids that I would try not to “freak out if the car wasn’t,” with all of its sensors and warning capabilities.

Tune in to this episode of This Is Getting Old: “Top Car Consideration for Older Drivers: Age-Friendly Technologies/Age-Friendly Cars,” to learn about a few of the age-friendly technologies in cars and how they help drivers of all ages. 

Key points covered in this episode: 

✔️ Blind Spot Information Systems with Cross-Traffic Alert

Blind spot information systems with cross-traffic alerts are great for older drivers and those with reduced mobility–or if you’re the passenger in the vehicle with a newly-licensed driver (like my 16-year-old!). This feature uses sensors to alert drivers and display a warning light in the side mirror (and/ or make a sound, depending on your vehicle) when a car is in your blind spot. 

✔️ Front 180-Degree Camera with Split View

The front 180-degree camera helps see small children, pets, or other obstacles that may be too close to your car when trying to pull out, with limited visibility for oncoming traffic. A split-view camera can also show you what’s on the front of your car’s left and right sides. 

I decided this was a good feature when I inadvertently pulled out of a grass parking lot that I thought was level on all four sides, only to drive right into the only ditch. Said ditch was the length of the front of my car, and my older children had a field day laughing at my error while we waited for the tow truck to pull me out. My next vehicle had the front camera, which has proven handy for several intersections in my town and when I drive in Washington, DC.

✔️ Park Assist System for Parallel Parking

Park assist systems are another helpful feature for drivers of all ages.  This feature helps you with traditional parallel parking (and some vehicles also assist with perpendicular parking). Parallel parking assist systems are very useful in urban areas where there may not be much room between cars. 

And while I love this feature, my 16-year-old son enjoys using this feature and has been quite proud of himself for successfully parallel parking. What he may not realize is that he needs to pay attention to the angles the car uses to parallel park so he can park without this feature — because the chances that his first car will self-park are pretty slim 

✔️ Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go

Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go allows you to set your cruise control to a certain speed, and if you have a car driving slower in front of you, the car auto-adjusts to the slower speed. You can set this feature to follow one, two, or three car-lengths behind, depending on your comfort level.

✔️ Perimeter and Rear Parking Sensors

Perimeter and rear sensors emit a high-frequency sound that bounces off nearby objects. If you’re backing up to park in a garage, these sensors can emit a sound that lets you know if you’re getting too close to a wall or another car. These sensors can be helpful for all drivers; the trick is to make sure you use them. 

In the video version of the podcast, you can see that I didn’t listen to my perimeter sensors when I was in a parking deck recently, and my car, Foxy, ended up in the “hospital” for repairs.

✔️ Infotainment Touch Screen Systems: Apple Play

The Infotainment Touch Screen System is a great feature that simplifies things when transitioning from car to car. I’ve found this “universal” technology to be particularly helpful when I travel and have to use a rental car. Through your smartphone, you can use apps you are already familiar with from car to car, such as Waze or Google Maps for navigation, which might be easier than the vehicle’s built-in GPS that you may not be familiar with.  

Apple Play can also let you connect your phone to your car’s speakers to listen to music or podcasts through the car’s audio system. This feature also allows you to use voice activation hands-free, using the same technology on your phone.

✔️ Lane Keeping System

I’ve found this feature to calm my nerves when riding with a less experienced driver. There have been times that I felt like we weren’t in the middle of our lane when my son was driving, and to verify where we were, I could look over and see the lane-keeping system. I could do this without stressing my son out and relax, and/or the car would let him know by correcting him into the lane without any verbal prompting from me. All parents riding with new drivers benefit from this technology!

✔️ CarFit Program

The most important thing is that the car we drive at any age fits us — for maximum safety and comfort.

The AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association partnered in 2006 to offer a new program called CarFit — a community-based program designed to keep older drivers safe while driving by focusing attention on comfort, fit, and security in their vehicles.

The program is designed to help older drivers find out how well they fit into their current vehicle, identify actions they can take to improve their fit, and talk about driver safety — for themselves and others on the road. They have an in-person event and offer virtual workshops. You can volunteer to help keep the roads safer for everyone.

You can find more information at Car-Fit.org — the link is below in the description if you’re watching on YouTube, but can also be found on my website, MelissaBPhD.com, in the blog for this episode.

If you have questions, or comments or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at melissabphd@gmail.com, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question. 

More Resources About Memory And Alzheimer’s Disease …

This Is Getting Old has several other episodes about memory and Alzheimer’s. You can check them out below:

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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at MelissaBPhD.com to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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