By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Did you ever wish that things inside your car or SUV could be changed around?  Maybe a button or dial could be moved to another spot or perhaps you could make changes to the seats or mirrors?  Well when it comes to older drivers, the design of a vehicle can impact safety too.  While a number of automakers are trying to make driving safer for seniors.  3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan shows us how one company is meeting that challenge.

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Want to know what some senior citizens have to deal with while driving a car?  Just spend a few minutes in Ford’s “Third Age Suit” and you’ll have your answer.  It’s all about limits.

Leg and elbow braces stiffen the joints and limit movement.   A weighted vest limits flexibility.  Cotton gloves limit the sense of touch, a consequence often associated with diabetes.   While fingerless gloves limit finger control mimicking arthritis.  I felt like I was dressed for battle, when all I was trying to do was get in to a car!

“The suit is designed to add 30 years of age to our engineers.  To experience what it is like for an elderly individual to gain access to a vehicle,” says Rich Terrel with Ford  Motor Company.   According to Terrel, safety features now in Ford vehicles are often the result of what engineers have learned by using the Third Age Suit.  Like blind spot protectors that eliminate the need to turn around.

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Patrick Duff of Winner Ford in Cherry Hill says the safety features don’t end there. He says, “The cross traffic alert, the accident avoidance or the collision system where it warns you in case of a front end collision are all things people have questions about.”

Ford has even designed glasses to demonstrate eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma with the hopes of using them to improve vision through technology.   Duff says, “People are very interested in safety, it’s one of the biggest hot buttons you have when someone comes in to buy a car.”

And since mobility issues aren’t always the result of aging, improvements based off of what’s learned using the Third Age Suit could benefit more drivers down the road.

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