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How to Choose a Car for an Elderly Parent

For many seniors, driving is a big part of their independence. It allows them to get around without relying on others and can help them stay connected to their social circles. But as people age, their ability to drive safely can decline. If you’re worried about an elderly parent’s ability to drive, it may be time to start thinking about getting a car that is better suited for their needs. 

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when choosing a car for an elderly parent.

Get a Car with Fewer Blind Spots

Poor vision is common with aging. A problem that can arise from reduced visibility is more blind spots while driving. 

Cars like large SUVs and vans often have large blind spots on the sides and rear. These can be dangerous for anyone, but especially for elderly drivers who may not be able to easily check them.

So opt for a smaller car, such as a sedan, that has better visibility. If your parent is set on a larger vehicle to impress their friends on visits to memory care facilities or park drives, make sure to get one with blind-spot monitors that will give them a visual warning if someone is in their blind spot.

Look for Automatic Transmissions

One certain consequence of old age is muscle degeneration or muscle loss

This limits the ability to perform certain tasks, including making it difficult to move the stick shift in a manual transmission car. If a parent is having trouble driving a manual, look for a car with an automatic transmission.

The automatic transmission in cars works by having sensors that trigger gear shifts when needed using internal oil pressure. To check for sure if a car is automatic, observe the number of pedals – if there are only two, it is an automatic car. Manual cars have a third pedal known as a clutch.

Choose a Car with Power Steering and Brakes

Again, the loss of dexterity in the hands also makes it difficult to steer. Tremors and a loss of grip strength may occur due to not just muscle loss, but also conditions like arthritis.

This can make it difficult to turn the steering wheel, especially if the car doesn’t have power steering.  Look for a car that has power steering to make it easier for your parent to turn.

Similarly, reduced strength from muscle loss can make it difficult to depress the brake pedal with enough force. Look for a car that has power brakes, which use vacuum pressure from the engine to assist in depressing the brake pedal.

When choosing a car for an elderly parent, it is important to keep in mind their declining physical abilities. Look for a car with automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, and few blind spots. With the right car, your parent can maintain their independence and mobility.

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