Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

An Elder Needs Design Team

I was just at a car dealership assisting a friend with typical elderly maladies and I commented on the door on the car in the showroom having a big heavy feel with heavy detents. We got to chatting with another aging couple there and they commented that they had the same problem with a lot of new cars. That alone removes numerous models as potential purchases for older people. When parked on a hill it’s a struggle to open and/or close the door. There’s no design need to do this, this feel is simply built in to provide a feeling of “security”.

Perhaps it’s time the manufacturers added to their design teams engineers to address the needs of older buyers. We are, after all, all becoming older buyers. And as an older buyer I can tell you that out needs are not being recognized.

What say ye?

I guess this goes along with the small windows - added steel to improve the side impact scores…

Door detents on hills can be a problem for many. Can you explain more clearly what current part of the doors design does not need to be? door detents are needed for several safety reasons (too both the vehicle and the driver/passenger.

Detents are needed, but the “heavy” feel is not. It’s a function of the hinge and preload designs. Even a very heavy device can be hinged and preloaded to feel light, and the latch mechanism can be designed to close easily yet withstand the required forces without unlatching and to include the necessary crashworthyness. There are still models out there that have “light” doors. The new Hyundaes are good and a few others that I’ve tried. My own car, a coupe with long doors, is medium. Some very small doors are very heavy.

An elderly man I met some years back had bought a new Caddy and said he loved the car but the door was killing his bursitis. And I know that in helping aging friends search for cars testing of the doors is the first thing I do. Most of them can’t bu a car with a heavy door. Most of them have srtitis, bursitis, fibrmyalgia, or some other limitation.

Ya gotta know when to hang 'em up…If you can’t open and close a car door, it’s time to turn in your license…

We have created a culture for ourselves that is completely, totally and utterly dependent on the private automobile…It doesn’t have to be that way…

It’s that very same hill that requires the strong detents to…
Hold the door open !

Yes, just last month I replaced the detent rod on my wife’s 06 Escape hybrid because the door would not STAY open as it used to. A huge bother when trying to collect the packages or mail and want to step out to find your door back in your knee.

Then there’s the logic conundrum that ,
Who is it you see driving the biggest Crown Vics, Buicks , and caddies ?
– seniors ! –

Just one more item on the list of personal preferences and needs one must remember to shop for very specifically. If it’s that big of an issue…make it an issue ( write it down ), a deal breaker when buying, along with ; long legs or short ; seat hight ; trunk access etc.

Interestingly enough, my '07 TL has doors that open and close with the slightest nudge. In fact, if you don’t leave them in one of the 2 detents, they will close by themselves. I mention this because one of the biggest complaints I see on the Acura enthusiast forum, and one with which I disagree entirely, is that the damn doors close too easily.

Seems if someone did design cars with elderly people in mind, a lot of other people would gripe about it :wink:

Bursitis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and such diseases do not make a person an unsafe driver. To say that these common diseases of the aging render one not able to drive, to say that we should turn our licenses in, is a cold and ignorant statement. I suffer from bursitis, arthritis and disability, and in all honesty I find the statement offensive and simplistic.

And yes, the overwhelming majority of the areas in the United States are not served by public transportation and are truely dependent on the private automobile. We are not a densely popoulated country like many of the Asian countries. We need our cars.

My post was about enabling us, the aging population, not about taking our keys away. It was also about the wisdom of a company selling us its products…it might be wise for them to recognize this large portion of the buying public and egin to focus on needs rather than just buying trends.

You may be right.

That TL, is that an Acura? I’m helping on a “shop” this Sunday, and that’s one I’d like to put on the list to look at.

Yes. But they were redesigned for the '09 model year. I can’t say for sure that the new ones will have the same easy doors.

MB, I think Caddyman may have been overly blunt, but I kind of agree with him. When someone is suffering from a fibromyalgia flare-up, yes, it is dangerous for that person to drive. That person could easily have diminished hand and arm strength and coordination.

Too many people equate their cars with freedom, but freedom is an inalienable right. Driving is not. Many retirement homes and communities have shuttle services available, even in rural areas. Many places have free taxi services for the disabled and the elderly. When my grandmother lost the ability to drive, I gave her my cell phone number and told her to call me anytime she wanted me to take her somewhere. I have frequently taken my elderly neighbor to the store when he was unable to drive.

Many of the cars available in today’s new and used car markets have light weight doors that are as easy to open as it gets. Unfortunately, most elderly people want a big boat to drive in. However, they would be better served with smaller maneuverable cars with light weight doors. It’s a case of unrealistic expectations that is the problem. The cars they want most are the heaviest least maneuverable cars available. They just need to adjust their expectations and buy cars with lighter doors.

Doors are heavy for safety reasons, all of the infrastructure to protect you in the event of a collision. As we age, some car types naturally become too difficult for ingress and egress. A 2 seat sports car is unlikely to ever be suitable for geriatric or disabled people. I agree there could be more options. An electrically assisted door opener might be made available for sedans for example. Might even be a good business for aftermarket company. You can always opt for a van with an electric sliding door…

They’re available, actually, but generally you have to convert your doors to lambo-style opening, both because that’s what the kids who want cool opening doors want, and because it would prevent your opener from dooring the car next to you. You’re looking at a couple grand just for the hardware, though.

I have to respsectfully disagree with that perception of fibromyalgia’s effect on the driver’s safety. The degree to which sufferers are affected varies widely. But I recognize that your perception is common.

The world is full of those of us with disabilities. Many of us have had our disabilities for decades and have driven accident free for decades. Interestingly, if someone were to suggest that an amputee or a member of the Rholoff family should be taken off the roads they’d be verbally lambasted, yet because our disabilities aren’t obvious people can suggest that we be taken off the roads and be supported. It’s wrng to judge peoples abilities by their disabilities.

You may be right that older people want large cars with big heavy doors, but I can tell you that that’s not typical of those I know. Those I know with these diseases want something easy to open, close, and operate. And that is what prompted me to post. There simply are not many options that are.

An adaptable aftermarket electronic assist…I like the idea.

My friend cannot climb up into a van without pain and difficulty. For that matter, neither can I.

I was thinking they might have to swing up (or slide back) but then I figured it could be designed with a current limit that would stop the assist if it struck an object (not unlike a garage door opener). But you’re right, unless you’re in a handicapped spot, the door might always be striking other cars and that’s probably not a good thing :wink: Not that anything is stopping people from winging their manual doors with all their force into the adjacent car. I was sitting in my car once when this woman used both feet to swing her door open into the side of mine!

Way back when, a guy I knew had this van that was outfitted with swivel captain’s chairs. The arm rest swung up and it swiveled so you could hop out with ease. Perhaps they would lock in position while underway but release and allow swiveling when the doors open. I can envision an electric step that would swing out from under the body as the door opened to reduce the step height required to get in/out. Ever seen those recliners that gradually lift you to an upright position? Hmmmm, lot’s of ideas…

You can get a power swivel chair from Roll-x which slides back into the center of the van, turns around, and elevates you to standing position so that you can transfer to a wheelchair.

You can also get one from, I believe, Braun that will slide you out of the vehicle (van or minivan), turn perpendicular to the vehicle, and then move down until you’re at street level.

They’re expensive though - north of 2 grand starting price.

The electric steps exist too - in fact you can see them on Lincoln Navigators. They slide out when the door opens.

I hope you realize I am not talking about taking away anyone’s license arbitrarily. Most people with disabilities are able to treat symptoms and minimize flare-ups, and I certainly wouldn’t want to paint with a broad brush. However, I often see people who are suffering the ravages of old age in a state of denial about their ability to drive, and either an inability or a refusal to curtail their activities on days when things are worse than normal. Personally, I think people of a certain age should be road tested more often than others, and this isn’t an ageism thing. When my time comes, I plan to give up my keys gracefully, even if I have to relocate to a city with good mass transit to do so.

If you really think someone who doesn’t have the strength to open a heavy car door has the strength to make emergency maneuvers when a small child runs out in front of his or her car, I will defer to your knowledge and experience. I just have a hard time imagining it.

I understand.

One of the attributes people with these problems also look for in vehicles is easy steering. Fortunately, there’s still a good selection of vehicles out there that are easy to steer. Many have gone to the “european feel”, but fortunately many have not.

Another attribute is ease of using the shifter. It would be so wonderful if a manufacturer could come out with a car with a row of pushbuttons on the dash, D-R-N-D-3-2-1 or something to that. Dodge had these in the late '60s-early’70s, but nobody has had them since. Back then the technology was mechanical (read: terrible), but with today’s technology it’d be easy. And probably less expensive to manufacture than today’s setups.

Some car doors aren’t as heavy as others and are easier to move. My 2005 Accord 4-door has doors that are very easy to close; the trunk is, too. I’ve noticed that me Regal and Silhouette have havier doors and they are more difficult to shut. Maybe that’s why my kids and wife slam the Honda doors unnecessarily. One more thing: 4-door cars tend to have smaller and lighter doors than the 2-door analog. And it wuld not hurt at all to let your favorite manufacturers know that lighter, easier to close doors are selling points. After all, we Boomers will still be a huge market in our dotage, and we can still use that to our advantage.