Family-owned business helps keep seniors, disabled people driving
For many seniors, one of the downsides of getting older is no longer being able to drive.
But AAA found most elderly drivers aren't taking steps that could let them stay behind the wheel.
“It can be as simple as adding a convex rearview mirror to their regular mirror to get a wider view, so it makes it easier backing up and changing lanes,” said John Paul, who is the senior manager of public affairs for AAA Northeast.
In Seekonk, Adaptive Mobility, a family-owned business, customizes vehicles for people with disabilities, as well as the elderly. The general manager said many of them thought their driving days were over.
“People are just ecstatic when they get back on the road,” Brian Kochanek said.
According to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 90 percent of senior drivers aren't taking advantage of inexpensive features that can be added to their cars.
At Adaptive Mobility, customers can have simple features like hand controls and left foot gas pedals installed in their cars to make their driving safer and keep them behind the wheel longer.
“If both legs don't have reflexes, we can do the hand controls so they can do gas and brake with their hands,” Kochanek said.
AAA said elderly drivers should also consider using cushions or seat pads, which can reduce hip or back pain.
It's not just about being able to drive. Making car adjustments also benefits elderly drivers' mental health. AAA found seniors who stopped driving are nearly two times more likely to suffer from depression.
“What we found out is the longer you drive, the longer you live because you tend to be more social. You tend to go to a doctor's appointment when you need to rather than when you have to,” Paul said.
For Kochanek, the payoff is seeing safe, elderly drivers back on the road.
“They say we've given them their freedom back,” he said.