Marsha Stevens, 75, of Hingham, with her new SUV. GREG DERR/THE PATRIOT LEDGER

Seniors can find newer vehicle technology, voices intimidating
Sue Scheible
The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY - When I got my first car, a used VW Beetle in 1964, it seemed simple and exciting. The Beetle had a stick
shift, which I had fun learning, and if the car didn't start, we'd push it to get it going.

Buying a brand new car at age 77 is still exciting but oh so different. After eight years and 227,000 miles
in my 2013 Subaru Impreza, it was time to stop spending on repairs. I was ready to buy a 2021 Subaru CrossTrek with a
Thule bike rack on the back. Friends were encouraging, but said I might find the new technology confusing.

The ride in my new car is so smooth. And it has many clever new safety features. I've come to rely on yellow lights
flashing on the side view mirrors when someone is coming up to pass me. And when a car in front of me was unexpectedly
slow making a right turn and my car got too close, I felt my car brakes catch and slow me down.

But I do find the new dashboard screens confusing. I still don't know what some of the icons or symbols "do."
And where is that voice suddenly coming from?

Marsha Stevens, 75, of Hingham, is an educational consultant who got a new Subaru Forester last fall. She recently
returned to the Planet Subaru dealership in Hanover in distress. "I had a long road trip the next day and thought I
had a major mechanical defect," she said. Her Forester had a safety feature she didn't realize was there. If the car came
too close to the center or side lane markings, the car would move slightly back towards the center of the lane - as
if someone else was driving or had pulled the wheel.

This was very disturbing to her. "I felt like I wasn't in control of the car and like it was running off the road,"
Stevens said. "It was not a feature that I knew existed. It can do this very subtly and it can really freak you out."

So before she started a long road trip to Washington, D.C., she took her Forester back to Planet Subaru, where purchase
partner David Gardner saw her waiting and offered to help. When he showed her how to disable the automatic correction,
she was so relieved she exclaimed, "I love you."

There are other safety features that Stevens does appreciate. One is called brake assist. If her car moves too close
to a car in front of her, her car's brakes will gently kick in. "It's lovely once you know about it," she said.

Stevens had a few ideas for helping "older folks who are not so techy buy new cars." "I suggest they do what Apple does
- offer new owners a class that they can come back to after they have owned the car a week or so," she said, "When
you buy a new car, you can feel bombarded with new words, new features and information. It can be way too much too fast."

Mary Doller, 78, of Weymouth, bought her first Subaru 11 years ago because of the built-in navigation map.
When she reached 170,000 miles last September and faced major repairs, she returned to Planet and to Gardner for
her new Forester. "He treated me like I knew what I wanted, listened to me, and I got the car I wanted.

I also had such a good experience with Gardner that I suggested to him that dealers have sales associates who
specialize in seniors. His response was that he handles every customer "uniquely," whatever their age.
"I listen to what they want and need, their preferences, and I adjust for each person's needs," he said. "Some people
don't want to spend much time and are in a rush; others spend a lot of time and want to go over everything."