Dear Ms. Smartphone: We were at an auto show this week. When I asked my Mom if she planned to get a new car she said she felt safer in the one she drives today. My Mom is over 70 and the car is at least twelve years old. My dad is even older and doesn’t understand why there are big control panels in today’s cars. He asked if the passengers watch TV! Is there something I can do to help them? Jerome,Tiburon
Dear Jerome: If your parents are safe drivers, i.e., there are no dents to the car, no near-misses, and they don’t travel too far, there may not be a lot to be done. Perhaps your folks perceive that new cars are too expensive, and stay parked (not in use) most of the day.
Sometimes seniors don’t know about alternatives. I volunteer and teach classes on using phones to hail Uber or Lyft. Students get excited when they learn the app and begin to see an alternative way to travel.
But, since you went to the auto show together, what are some immediate steps you can take? If they are using a stand-alone GPS, suggest they try a newer technology, like WAZE navigation on their phone. Dad might then see the usefulness for the TV sized display.
Their resistance to new technology is natural and in transportation it has real consequences. As we age, it takes our brains more time to process information, decide how to handle it and take action. Each step takes longer, and possibly so long that it becomes dangerous. Until they get comfortable and experienced, a new device might slow down or impair their road faculties.
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In the meantime, consider taking your parent’s older car in for a safety check and an upgrade installed on newer models. Blind spot detection is a valuable unobtrusive technology. A warning light sensor flashes in the side mirror when there is a vehicle is in the blind spot, when it is not safe to change lanes, or when a bicycle or pedestrian is nearby. Pick a top-of-the line sensor that is highly reliable and have it installed by a reputable shop, preferably the dealer.
These three steps: learning about ride share options, using navigation on the phone, and installing an aftermarket blind spot sensor may introduce your parents to new ideas, safer transportation, and keep them more mobile.