Getting In and Out of Cars: Gadgets that Help
Our explorers have been trying out various gadgets that let them get in and out of cars more easily. So far we have focused on two types of products. The first is a swivel car seat, and the second is a sort of extra "car handle for the elderly".
The swivel car seat is designed to allow one to rotate the body when getting in and out of the car, to avoid the twisting motion on the torso. The car handle is designed to be something people can use to lever themselves up from the car seat, or perhaps help lower themself into the car seat. The most widely advertised of these car handles is a product called the Handybar and the explorers also looked at a competitor called a Car Cane. You can see the swivel car seat and the Handybar in the image above, and more below.
Our explorers discussed all these products and played with them at several circle meetings over several months. Some of the explorers purchased and tested out the products themselves in the course of daily life. Others reacted mainly to their first impressions of playing with the products at our explorer circles.
You can listen to the explorer discussions (on right or below). What follows is a summary of what explorers learned and concluded about these potentially useful gadgets. We include links to where you can buy these products at the bottom of the page.
Why might one want a swivel car seat or handybar / car cane?
Many of our explorers have discussed in prior meetings the fact that getting into and out of the car becomes difficult when one has arthritis, or after some type of surgery, or with a new hip, or when one has back trouble or one is heavy or has low strength.
In our discussions, the explorers decided there are three separate "challenges". Some people might just need one of these addressed, but some may need all three, depending on their physical capabilities.
The challenges are rotation, leg lifting, and leverage.
The first challenge, which the swivel car seat is designed to help with, is the need to rotate one's body and legs into the car after you first sit down on the seat. And then when it is time to get out of the car, one needs to do that same rotation in reverse.
Lifting the legs
The related and secondary challenge comes after the body has been rotated and it is time to lift the remaining leg into the car. In some cases this is hard for elderly people to do also. We have not yet found a product that aims to help with this second challenge.
Something to hang on to: leverage
A whole different issue arises if one is heavy or not super strong, or a bit unstable on one's feet. Then one wants something to hang on to, either to pull oneself up out of the car, or to lower oneself into the car. This is where the Handybar and Car Cane come in.
Swivel Car Seat
We only tried out one brand of swivel car seat. It was made by Drive Medical, and there is a link to its Amazon page at the bottom of this page. One can see numerous very similar looking swivel seats for the car on Amazon and Walgreens (links at bottom of page too). We did not try and decide which of these various products was "better".
Almost univerally our explorers thought this swivel seat for the car was a great concept, targeting a real problem. However, there were quite a few criticisms of the exact details of how this specific product was implemented. Some people did not like this exact product at all, for reasons you can hear discussed on the audio. In contrast several of the explorers liked it quite a bit.
What everyone agreed on was that it could definitely be "improved". We even ran a little brainstorming session on how to improve a swivel car seat.
You can listen to the brainstorming on "swivel car seat improvement" here.
Handybar and Car Cane
Overall, the majority felt they liked the HandyBar a little better, primarily due to its solid feel and the fact that it has a tapered and curved part that "connects" to the car, which people thought might make it work with a wider range of vehicles than the Car Cane which has a straighter less tapered connection portion.
On the other hand, the Car Cane was lighter, which some explorers preferred. And it has a handy, built-in flashlight which might come in handy if one needs to connect it to the car when it is dark.
Take away message
The take away from multiple discussions was that the Handy Bar and Car Cane were pretty useful for people who have a need to have a stable thing to hang on to when getting into or out of the car, or to use to pull oneself up.
The swivel car seat got decidedly more mixed feedback. Many liked the concept. But there seemed to be quite a few details that could be improved. If you are interested in how to improve these products, please listen to all the audio, and feel free to contact us for more insights.
If you find you have difficulty with the rotation part of getting into and out of a car, the consensus of our explorers was that the swivel car seat was worth a try, but be prepared for it not to be perfect.
The good news is neither product is expensive.
If you want to buy them
You can see below links to these products on Amazon where you can buy them* if you want.
Here are some other swivel car seats from Walmart that look very similar but may have subtle differences. And here are yet more from Sears. We did not try any of these out. They all look extremely similar.
*[Disclosure: If you end up buying a product after clicking on these links, the vendor (eg Amazon) gives us a few pennies from their revenues. Other than that, we have no financial interest in any of the products discussed in this explorer synthesis, and this work adheres to our research guidelines as far as conflict of interest etc is concerned.]
Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions
Comments, Questions, Discussion
from webmaster (member) at Jun 1 2016 - 11:24am
Hi Richard, [sent by email and reprinted here]
Great information! On the Swivel Car Seat generics from Walgreens and Sears… the biggest differences are in their weight capacity and the seat padding. The Swivel Seat is actually soft enough to leave under the person for short trips. Some of the others, the top “caves” in a little bit if your weight is a little heavier. When they buckle a bit, it makes it harder for them to swivel smoothly.
Mindy Oxman Renfro, PT, PhD
MonTECH Programs of the Rural Institute
from Mary Hulme (member) at May 9 2016 - 12:36pm
As a clinical social worker who works with older adults in San Francisco, I ordered both of these products in hopes that they would be of use to my clients. I tried the swivel seat with my 76 year old client who has great difficulty getting in and out of vehicles due to Parkinson's Disease; it made her feel even more unstable! The HandyBar did not fit properly on my car (I have a 2011 Subaru Outback) so the handle jiggled loosely back and forth rather than providing a secure handhold. I will, however, keep the HandyBar in case I accidentally drive into a lake and need to cut myself free from the seatbelt and smash the window to make my escape!