While being old is not a disability, it can certainly make an impact on your flexibility, strength and overall ability to move. In short, when you’re old enough to claim the title elderly, some things can become a lot more cumbersome than they used to be.
The good news is that the solutions that make a vehicle more accessible aren’t necessarily only for people using wheelchairs. They can be just as helpful for seniors where limited mobility prevents them from being truly independent.
In the following guide, we provide a number of adaptations suitable for geriatric applications such as:
The most common age-related issue people will face is getting in and out of the car. It’s a move that requires a lot of core strength, flexibility and coordination, especially in today’s streamlined cars. One solution is of course to get a bigger car but there are many reasons a bigger car is out of the question.
In essence, a transfer board is a device that makes the car’s seat wider. It’s used by wheelchair users as a means to shorten the distance they need to lift themselves in order to reach the car’s seat. However, it can also be of great use for non-wheelchair users. The board becomes a place to sit down without having to get in at the same time. Once you’re seated you simply slide over to the seat only having to slightly bow to clear the car’s roof. When getting out of the car it’s just as useful as you can slide over to and get your legs facing outwards before attempting to stand. You can also hold onto the door and the B-pillar to provide extra leverage when standing up.
As the board itself sticks out over the car’s sill, transfer boards are either detachable or foldable.
Swivel seats provide excellent assistance when getting in and out of the vehicle. The way they work is that they make it possible to rotate the seat towards the door opening. This makes the front of the seat stick out above the sill, providing a small area to sit down without simultaneously having to crouch. After you’ve touched down on the seat it’s simply a matter of rotating the seat into the car and you’re in place. Swivel seats can be installed in most cars.
Much like a swivel seat, a seat lift will rotate the seat towards the door opening. But where the swivel seat gives you access to part of the seat, the seat lift will move the entire seat outside the car and even lower it down if necessary. This makes the seat lift a preferred solution in higher built cars such as vans and SUVs. An added benefit of the seat lift is that you can use the lifting motion to help you stand up. Seat lifts can be installed in many cars but do require a bit more extra space than a swivel seat would.
Perhaps the most economical solution is a detachable handle that fits in the car’s door latch. This provides you with a stable point to hold onto and good leverage while standing up or getting seated.
As a driver, it can be very intimidating to get behind the wheel if you feel your body is not responding as it used to. Fortunately, help is available.
A good option when functionality in the legs starts to deteriorate is hand controls. This adaptation moves the function of the car's pedals to a hand-operated lever. Hand controls require a car with automatic transmission but other than that they can be used in most cars. Another benefit is that hand controls don’t hinder normal use of the car’s pedals. The driver can simply choose to use hand controls or the pedals.
For those not needing mobility aids to get around but use them to increase their range, the following solutions are worth looking into.
Even if you can walk short distances you might need to use a mobility aid such as a walker, a wheelchair or mobility scooter for longer distances. In that case, you most likely will want to bring that assistive device with you in your car. Even if the name suggests a specific payload a wheelchair hoist can lift pretty much any mobility device. A wheelchair hoist installed in the trunk or boot of your car and will help you with all the heavy lifting.
Another way to bring a wheelchair into a car is by using a transfer wheelchair. This solution is both a car seat and a wheelchair in one. The system consists of a wheelbase, a seat and a swivel seat/seat lift. In wheelchair mode, the seat is attached to the wheelbase and can be used as a standard comfort wheelchair. In order to get the seat into the car, you simply dock the wheelbase to the swivel seat/seat lift and slide the seat over. The wheelbase is now loose, and the seat can be rotated into the car where it will function just as a standard car seat. This transfer can be made both with and without a user occupying the seat.
All of the above solutions have been carefully selected to provide the best assistance within their respective area. However, there are two other important aspects that we wanted to add to this list.
Always consult your vehicle adaptation technician before choosing a car or product.
There are of course a number of useful aids that will enable you, both as driver and passenger, to enjoy the ride in the comfort of a car seat.
When you’re first out looking for an adapted vehicle you might not consider safety as an issue. Maybe you’re thinking: “It’s built into a car, it has to be safe!”. Unfortunately, that is not at all the case.
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