Car Talk For Seniors: What Car Features Should Older Drivers Ask For?

Your mom is ready to speed into her golden years. But are her wheels ready?

Today’s cars make driving safer and more comfortable than ever before. But some features, like hooking up a Spotify account to the Bluetooth stereo, likely aren’t what mom needs. What features will please her Need for Speed? Follow the checklist below, with some help from our favorite Hollywood films!

A. Blind-spot detection

There’s always that one blind-spot in your car. Twisting and craning your neck to see is a good way to hurt yourself. Let your new car’s blind-spot detection system do the hard work. They use visual or audible warnings to let you know when there is a car hiding in the Vanishing Point. This means no more close calls and no more aching necks.

B. Lane departure warnings

Let’s face it—sometimes we get distracted and let our cars drift. Lane departure warnings mean these momentary lapses in attention don’t cause a Crash. Some will not only warn you but will nudge your car back on track.

C. Collision avoidance systems

If the car in front of you stops suddenly or a child runs out in front of your car, you’ve got to act fast. Collision avoidance systems make a crash less likely. They not only warn you of a sudden obstacle but can brake automatically. Collision avoidance systems help you avoid causing an accident and a Two Lane Backup.

D. Rear parking assist

Today’s cars even make parallel parking easy. Let your car do it for you. Pull up beside a space, press a button and let go of the wheel. It does all the work so you can get where you’re going with less fuss. Rear parking assist uses beeping proximity sensors to warn you before you get too close to other cars. The faster the beep, the closer you are. Pair this with a rearview camera so you can see exactly what is behind the car. These tools take the guesswork out of parking.

E. Doors at the right height

Avoid tall trucks and SUVs that you have to climb into. Remember, you’re looking for a Transporter to get from point A to point B. You’re going for a drive, not a workout. Be wary of cars with doors that swing too wide–they can make crowded parking lots a dangerous proposition. Instead, choose a car with doors that are easy to open at a height that suits you.

F. Adjustable seats

Driving isn’t fun when the seat makes your back hurt. Look for cars that let you drive Fast and Furious in comfort. You should be able to adjust the seat’s height, tilt and closeness to the steering wheel—bonus points for adjustable lumbar support. And look for heated seats – your back pain will be Gone in 60 Seconds.

G. Adjustable steering wheel

Make your car adjust to you, not vice versa. The steering wheel should be able to adjust upward for more room when getting in and then adjust down to the perfect height for driving. Look for thicker steering wheels that are easier to grip. If your hands tend to get stiff, a heated steering wheel will keep them from locking up.

H. Push-button starts and automatic trunks

Give your wrists a break on your Talladega Nights. Push-button ignitions are much easier than fussing with keys. If you are in and out of your trunk a lot, look for power-operated trunk hatches. Some open with a button press, or look for one you can both open and close by moving your foot under the rear bumper.

I. Simplified dashboard

Some cars cram too much information onto their dashboards. The Driver will want to see key info at a glance, but the rest is just a distraction. Look for large gauges with high-contrast numbering. Try out a digital speedometer—they can be easier to read than a traditional gauge. Avoid cars with touchscreen displays and complicated menus. You will want knobs and buttons for the radio and climate control that you can operate without taking your eyes off the road.

J. Smart headlights

Gone are the days when headlights just pointed straight as the cars were Driven. Check out cars with bulbs that swivel when you turn the wheel to better light up curves. If you use your high beams a lot, look for systems that dim so you don’t blind oncoming traffic. For regular use, high-intensity bulbs can make all the difference when driving in the dark.

Enjoy the ride

When the time comes to upgrade your car, you want to do it right.  These cars will support you as you age so you can stay independent for as long as possible. Soon you’ll have your very own Love Bug!

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Although he loves to drive, he looks forward to the day when his car includes an “autopilot” option. 

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