exercise for older adults

Getting in and out of cars – Tips for older adults

Getting in and out of the car is something most of us don’t even think about. You just get in, right? But as we age, it can become one of the main daily obstacles. Gone are the days of being able to jump in without a second thought. Suddenly you have to take your time, be more careful and get in much more slowly.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make this process easier. Here are some tips, tricks, ergonomic aids and exercises that can help in making life that little bit easier.

Change your technique

It might seem like a no-brainer, but you can adapt different techniques to make getting in and out of the car easier. Changing techniques is often the easiest way to improve our ability to hop in and out of the car.

Technique #1: This is the way most people do it. It involves stooping over, putting one leg inside of the car, and then simultaneously sitting down and swinging in the second leg. This involves a good level of balance, strength and mobility.

Technique #2 (recommended): Elderly people may find this a lot easier. The second method involves sitting down on the seat whilst both feet are still outside on the ground, and then pivoting both legs into the car one by one. This method requires a lot less of our balance, strength and mobility.

Use Ergonomic Aids

A wide range of nifty aids exist to help one get in and out of cars with ease. These range from seat cushions that can swivel, small handles that can hook onto your doors latch for extra support and tools specifically designed to help making reaching for the seatbelt easier. Occupational Therapists are often the most well equipped people to help you in finding what aids could help you. Start off by seeing your GP and have them point you in the right direction.

Improve your mobility with Exercise

Adding specific exercises into your daily routine is a great, cost effective way of improving your ability to enter and exit the car. Below are three exercises you can try at home to get started. They can also benefit many other aspects of your day-to-day life. From getting up from the couch, getting down onto a low toilet seat, and even getting in and out of bed.

Exercise 1. Standing Hip Hinge Against Wall

Stand upright roughly 6-8 inches away from a wall, then, whilst keeping your back straight and shoulder blades pulled back, push your hips back until your butt touches the wall, then return to standing straight. There should be very minimal bend in your knees! This exercise is to try and help with the initial movement of getting down on the seat and getting your bum onto the seat itself. Start with 10 repetitions.

hip hinge exercise

Exercise 2. Sit to Stand

Start in a sitting position on a normal dining table chair. Cross your hands across your chest. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and angled outwards slightly. From here, all you need to do is stand up using your legs and pushing through your heels! When you’re sitting back down, try and go nice and slowly instead of letting yourself fall back into the chair. This exercise is to try and help you give some strength and control in your legs for when you’re getting in and out of the car. Start with 10 repetitions.

Exercise 3. Seated one legged march over an object

Sitting down in the same chair as above, place a small object in front of you on the ground, it can be a cone, a small weight or even a can of tinned fruit. From here, lift one leg over the object, lightly tapping the ground, and then lifting it back over and tapping on the other side. Repeat on your opposite leg. This exercise is designed to try and help you get your leg in and out of the car once you’re sitting. Start with 20 repetitions on each leg.


Progressing these exercises and finding more?

The best place to start is to see your local GP. They may refer you to an allied health professional, like an Exercise Physiologist, to help managed your individual situation. Exercise Physiologists are university educated health professionals who use exercise to help manage and improve acute, sub-acute and chronic medical conditions. To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, click here.

exercise physiologist

Elliot McGeary is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Bellarine Sports Medicine Centre.