Remaining independent and aging in place are key concerns for many in the rapidly expanding senior citizen demographic, and mobility is an important aspect of seniors maintaining their freedom. In response to the aging population, Ford Motor Company has developed a number of innovations for its vehicles to make them more “senior friendly.”
“As you get older, the possible loss of that driving capability is equated with the removal of freedom, so what we can do to try to help older people continue to drive is important to them, because it really equates to a loss of freedom if they can’t do that,” says Gary Strumulo, Manager of Vehicle Design and Infotronics at Ford.
The innovations Ford has incorporated into some of its vehicles include specially contoured seats that prevent blood buildup when seated, user-friendly designs to help those who have joint stiffness or lack a full range of motion get in and out of cars easier, and easy fuel filters that let some push the gas nozzle directly into the device, making it easier on people with arthritic fingers.
In addition to this, Strumulo says Ford is also looking to address chronic illnesses that passengers may have, like diabetes, asthma, or allergies, by incorporating technology into their vehicles with a three pronged approach. This includes using Ford’s in-car connectivity system SYNC to connect to mobile health services that are on the web, and connect to devices brought into the vehicle (like a continuous glucose monitor) which communicates through bluetooth, and also to leverage the number of Smart Apps on smart phones.
Ford wants to adjust the purpose of SYNC to include health and wellness in addition to infotainment, says Strumulo, and the car company is looking beyond basic car safety features to reflect the aging population.
Another plan to make vehicles more “senior friendly” is to make font sizes on vehicle controls and interfaces bolder and wider. Ford cards arriving in dealerships next year will feature font sizes that have been increased 40%, starting with the Ford Edge and Explorer before spreading to other models.
By the year 2030, U.S. Census data shows about 20% of the American population will belong to the elderly demographic, and the number of American 50-year-olds will outnumber those under 20.
A recent Transportation for America study showed a huge “senior mobility crisis” threatening the Baby Boomer generation, as transportation options for many senior citizens are limited to driving. With an estimated 56% of the 65 and older crowd living in suburban areas where driving is the main method of transportation, it’s important to cater to this population by providing vehicle features that will help them to remain mobile longer, and therefore maintain their independence.
Written by Alyssa Gerace