Automakers Prepare for the Future With… “Aging Suits”

  by  |  November 19th, 2008  |  Published in All, Blog


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I remember the day I thought my grandfather was trying to kill me quite vividly. I was in the backseat of his beastly Cadillac as he drove my parents and I to the airport; my fingers clenched the handle of the door and my eyes squeezed shut as we weaved in and out of traffic, narrowly missing collisions with what seemed like the entire population of New Jersey. I started to wonder if my last memories on this planet would be of the beaded seat covers in front of me and the twang of country music playing on cassette.

I love my pop-pop dearly, but there is no way I’d like to repeat that experience ever again. Car companies, on the other hand, are using research tactics to design cars more suited to the elderly, with the wealthy, aging baby boomers in mind. The population of U.S. citizens 65 and older is expected to double by 2030, and auto companies want to make sure they continue to drive long after the cataracts form and arthritis sets in.

Obviously the alternative energy and more fuel-efficient cars can wait!

Nissan has begun arming test subjects with “aging suits” to simulate the physical limitations of the elderly. A bulging belly limits access to controls, goggles distort color on the dials and navigation system, and numerous straps hinder range of motion. The motor company hopes that these suits will help its designers create cars that appeal to geriatric boomers.

The simulations so far have resulted in a new vehicle option: motorized seats that rotate outward—for a price, of course.

Nissan isn’t the only car company taking this strategy, however. Ford Motor Co. has used its “Third Age” suit since 1999 to help design cars with older generations in mind; its Ford Focus was the first car in the company’s line to benefit from the research. There’s also word that Toyota uses research to engineer cars for older drivers, as well.

While all of these companies are making it easier for old people to give me a heart attack on the road, there is one company that is not on the list. They have not returned calls and emails to confirm this (apparently they have other, more pressing problems), but I am proud to report that GM has no hint of elderly-enabling on its web site or in its press releases. (Which makes sense at least metaphorically: This is the company that retired the Oldsmobile line in 2004.)

But GM’s inaction also means that one day, the Caddy just won’t cut it for pop-pop anymore. And when that day comes, I pledge to be a good granddaughter and drive him to the casino. Maybe I’ll even introduce him to country CDs.

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Responses

  1. Inflatable Bed · says:

    November 9th, 2010 at 1:49 pm (#)

    leather seat covers provide the best cover for seats because they require less maintennance .

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