Dear Savvy Senior,
Do you know of any car gadgets that can help older drivers? I drive a 12-year-old car and have arthritis in my neck, back and knees, which limits my mobility, making it more difficult to get in and out of the car and look over my shoulder to back up.
— Almost 80
To help keep older drivers safe and extend their driving years, there are a number of inexpensive products you can purchase that can easily be added to your vehicle to help with many different needs. Here are some popular auto aids to consider.
Entry and Exit Aids
For mobility challenged seniors who have a difficult time entering and exiting a vehicle – especially cars that are low to the ground or high vehicles such as SUV’s or pickup trucks – there are a variety of support handles and special seat cushions that can help.
Some examples include the Stander (stander.com) “HandyBar” ($40), which is a portable support grab bar that inserts into the U-shaped striker plate on the doorframe, and the “CarCaddie” ($20), a nylon support handle that buckles around the top of the door window frame. Stander also has an “Auto Swivel Seat Cushion” ($40), that rotates 360 degrees to help drivers and passengers pivot their body into and out of their vehicle.
Rear Vision Improvements
To help those with neck and back range of motion problems, which makes looking over the shoulder to back up or merge into traffic difficult, there are special mirrors you can add as well as back-up cameras.
To widen rear visibility and eliminate blind spots, Verivue Mirrors (verivuemirrors.com) offers the popular “Universal 12-Inch Panoramic Rearview Mirror” ($13) that clips on to existing rearview mirrors, along with a variety of “Blind Spot Mirrors” ($5 for two), which are small convex mirrors that stick to the corner of the sideview mirrors.
Another helpful device is the “Auto-vox CS-2 Wireless Backup Camera Kit” ($120, www.auto-vox.com). This comes with a night vision camera that attaches to the rear license plate, and a small monitor that mounts to the dash or windshield. When the vehicle is in reverse, it sends live images wirelessly to the monitor so you can see what’s behind you.
Seat Belt Extenders
For plus-sized people or those with mobility problems, there are seat belt extension products that can make buckling up a little easier. For example, Seat Belt Extender Pros (seatbeltextenderpros.com) offers vehicle-specific “Seat Belt Extenders” ($13 to $26) that fit into the seat belt buckle receiver to add a few inches of length, making them easier to fasten. They also sell a “Seat Belt Grabber Handle” ($8), which is a rubber extension handle that attaches to the seat belt strap to make it easier to reach.
If you have hand arthritis that makes gripping difficult or painful, consider the “SEG Direct Steering Wheel Cover” ($17) that fits over the steering wheel to make it larger, softer and easier to grip. And for help twisting open tight gas caps, the “Gas Cap & Oil Cap Opener by Gascapoff” ($17) is a long-handled tool that works like a wrench to loosen and tighten gas caps.
Many of these products can be found in your local auto supply stores or online at the manufacturer’s website or at Amazon.com. Just type the product name in the search bar to find them.
If you need more assistance, consider contacting a driver rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate elderly drivers and provide safety and driving equipment suggestions.
In addition to the types of aids mentioned in this column, there’s also a range of adaptive driving equipment that can be professionally installed on a vehicle – like swing-out swivel seats, pedal extenders, hand controls and more – to help people with various disabilities. To locate a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area, visit ADED.net or MyAOTA.aota.org/driver_search.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.