For most of us, driving represents independence. Being able to hop in the car and head out on the highway gives us freedom to live independently. But with aging come undeniable physical changes, some of which can make driving more challenging. Loss of flexibility, diminished mobility, and hearing loss are just a few.
If an older driver in your family is having difficulty, there might be an adaptive device that can help. Here are some of the driving tools you might want to explore if you are trying to help a senior driver in your family stay safe behind the wheel.
1) Seat belt pulls
Older drivers often cite problems reaching back to grab and pull their seat belt closed. Osteoarthritis, as well as back and shoulder problems, can make it difficult to wear a seat belt. But seat belt usage is a law in most states because it has been proven to save lives. A simple device called a Seat Belt Grabber Handle can provide a solution. It acts as an extended handle that makes it easier to pull the seat belt across the body and into a locked position.
2) Pedal extenders
Some older adults find they’ve become a little shorter, which can make reaching the gas pedal and brake tough. One tool that can help close this gap is a foot pedal extender. It works by extending the length of the pedals. This also prevents the senior from needing to sit too close to the steering wheel where they are more likely to be injured if the car’s air bags deploy.
3) Swivel seat cushion
A challenge older drivers face happens as they are getting in and out of their car. Some seniors say entering and exiting their vehicle is painful. When rotating the body to climb into the driver’s seat is difficult, the senior is at higher risk for a fall. A tool that can help is a swivel seat cushion. The senior can sit down and safely rotate their body with the help of the cushion. Another benefit is that a swivel cushion provides the older driver with a little extra height making it easier to see the road in front of them.
4) Mirror extenders
Decreasing flexibility makes it more difficult—sometimes even painful—for a senior driver to turn their neck and shoulders to look beside and behind them. A panoramic or extended mirror is an adaptive device that provides senior drivers with a broader view of the car’s surroundings.
Additional Senior Driving Resources
AARP put together some helpful resources if you have more questions about a senior loved one’s fitness for driving. Visit “Assessing Driving Ability” on the AARP website to learn more.