Dear Savvy Senior,
Are there any specific auto gadgets you can recommend that can help senior drivers? Both of my parents are in their eighties and still pretty good drivers, but due to arthritis and age they're very stiff, which causes them some driving problems.
To help keep senior drivers safe and prolong their driving years, there's a plethora of inexpensive, aftermarket vehicle adaptions you can purchase that can easily be added to your parent's vehicles to help with many different needs. Here are some good options.
Entry and Exit Aids
To help arthritic/mobility challenged seniors with getting into and out of their vehicle, there are a variety of portable support handles you can buy, like the "Emson Car Cane Portable Handle" ($12), which inserts into the U-shaped striker plate on the doorframe. And the "Standers CarCaddie" ($13) nylon support handle that hooks around the top of the door window frame.
Another useful product is the "DMI Deluxe Swivel Seat Cushion" ($22), which is a round portable cushion that turns 360 degrees to help drivers and passengers rotate their body into and out of their vehicle.
Enhanced Rear Vision
To help seniors with limited upper body range of motion, which makes looking over their shoulder to back-up or merge into traffic difficult, there are special mirrors you can add as well as backup cameras.
For starters, to widen rear visibility, eliminate blind spots and even help with parallel parking, get an oversized rear view mirror like the "Allview Rearview Mirror" ($50) that clips on to the existing mirror. You should also purchase some "Ampper Blind Spot Mirrors" ($7.50), which are 2-inch adjustable convex mirrors that stick to the corner of the side view mirrors.
Another helpful device is the "Auto-vox M1W Wireless Backup Camera Kit" ($110). 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
To make buckling up a little easier, there are a variety of seat belt extension products offered by Seat Belt Extender Pros like the "Seat Belt Grabber Handle" ($8), which is a rubber extension handle that attaches to the seat belt strap to make it easier to reach. And the "7-inch Rigid Seat Belt Extender" ($20) that fit into the seat belt buckle receiver to add a few inches of length, making them easier to fasten.
If your parents have hand arthritis that makes gripping the steering wheel, turning the ignition key or twisting open the gas cap difficult or painful, consider these products.
The "SEG Direct Steering Wheel Cover" ($15) that fits over the steering wheel to make it larger and easier to grip. The "Ableware Hole-In-One Key Holder" ($9), which is a small plastic handle that attaches to the car key to provide additional leverage to turn the key in the ignition or door. And for help at the pump, the "Gas Cap & Oil Cap Opener by Gascapoff" ($12) is a long-handled device that works like a wrench to loosen and tighten the gas cap.
All of these products can be found online at Amazon.com. Just type the product name in the search bar to find them.
Safety and Security
To help ensure your parents' safety, and provide you and them peace of mind, they should also consider an in-car medical alert system like "splitsecnd." Offered through Bay Alarm Medical (BayAlarmMedical.com, $30/month), his small device plugs into the vehicle's cigarette lighter to provide 24/7 roadside and emergency assistance at the push of a button, automatic crash detection and response, and GPS vehicle location and monitoring capabilities.
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.