- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

With baby boomers now well into middle age, many us of have found we are taking on new responsibilities: caregiver to our parents, older relatives or aging friends.
It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. One of the functions is transporting these older people.
My godmother is a youthful 98 and quite ambulatory for her age. She uses a cane to assist her in walking.
She lives in an assisted-living facility nearby and my husband and I take her out to eat and on her errands.
She finds it perplexing that I rarely show up in the same vehicle twice.
But my access to a wide range of test vehicles has given me insight into older people's transportation needs.
Anything with four-wheel drive is a no-no. It is just too high off the ground for older folks to get themselves in and out. They have a well-founded fear of falling if they have to jump out of a 4x4. If you have no other choice other than to use a 4x4 vehicle, I would suggest carrying a sturdy one-step stool and making sure that you hold on securely to your loved one as he or she enters and exits.
Sports cars also are not a good choice. Sure, your older passenger can plop down into the seat, but getting out is the problem although one elderly relative really did love riding in a Corvette convertible.
A minivan also is not so easy to get in and out of. In order to have a flat floor, it has to be quite a bit higher off the ground than you would imagine. Again, I found a stool useful.
So what's best? Sedans and station wagons.
Sedans with long back doors are even better like the Toyota Camry, Lincoln Town Car, Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis, or a long BMW or Mercedes.
The extra space makes it easier for joints that don't bend so well.
If you have a sedan that has a rear seat that is built into the wheel well, or a two-door coupe, you will need to put your passenger in the front seat despite the danger from air bags.
Deploying air bags can be lethal to oldsters. Their bones are fragile, like a child's. If you have to put your older passenger in the front seat, be sure to slide the seat as far back as possible. And make sure they are wearing their seat belt.
If your loved one uses a walker or wheelchair, a station wagon makes an excellent choice.
Of course, you should remember your manners. Open and close the door for your precious cargo. Fasten the seat belt for them.
Remember, there was a time that they were doing the same thing for you.

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