The Granny Mobile
It should come as no surprise that the car industry develops and manufactures cars aimed to entice customers between the ages of 18 and 45 – think of engines with 350 horse power, a sleek futuristic design and enough technological gadgets to keep the Star Ship Enterprise functioning. Accordingly, there are many customers who do not fall into this age group and therefore cannot buy cars best suited to their needs, especially elderly drivers. But do not worry! The men from the British cult-TV show Top Gear have created a solution for all retiree drivers affectionately named the “Granny Mobile.”
A car fit for a…grandpa
In response to a challenge to build the best-suited car for the elderly, the men of Top Gear created the “Granny Mobile.” They took a Fiat Multipla and retrofitted it for grandparents. Some of the “improvements” included walking sticks for getting in and out, an oversized odometer for easier reading, larger cup holders, hearing aids and waterproof front seats. The car also gained an oversized, pliable front bumper for the not-so-uncommon fender benders elderly drivers are accustomed to, a new coat of paint to match the driver’s hearing aids, and an overwhelming mothball fragrance. To help get rid of those pesky blind spots, the Top Gear men also mounted tractor-trailer-sized side-view mirrors.
Laughable solution to an earnest problem
Although the “Granny Mobile” as imagined by the men from Top Gear is not to be taken seriously, it is a silly solution to a serious problem. Consumer Reports, an American magazine known for independent product testing, notes that in the US elderly drivers are 5.5 times more likely to be in an accident than middle age drivers. That makes them the second poorest performing group of drivers behind teenagers. And with the Baby Boomer generation getting older, soon one out of every five drivers will be over 65. Although older drivers are amongst the most experienced, many have physical problems that inhibit their driving. Therefore, some car companies are introducing features better suited for them. Enhanced rear- and side-view mirrors and cameras, blind-spot detection systems and larger buttons and controls help drivers with limited mobility detect and react to traffic more quickly. Ford has developed safety belts specifically designed for people with a higher risk for breaking bones and many SUVs are now designed for easier entry and exit. However, many current features make driving more difficult for the elderly. Thicker windshields, smaller windows and larger roof pillars decrease visibility while complicated control systems and fancy infotainment centers distract drivers from the road. Finally, many elderly drivers are living on fixed budgets and need affordable cars with good fuel economy. Although many aging drivers and their children do not want to admit it, aging necessitates a change in driving habits. Older drivers and their families should consider cars that will afford them the maximum mobility with the safest drive, though driving should still remain fun and enjoyable!