Look Back To The Future

Look Back To The Future

Thanks to an outbreak of techno-savvy in Dadlington, a small village in the English county of Warwickshire, I am now the recipient of regular e-correspondence from my dear old Dad. His in-depth updates on sport, politics, the Euro zone crisis and financial markets are all covered in such detail that some days I wonder if I’ve ever actually left Blighty.

But it was a piece of much more personal news that tinged todays bulletin with sadness; my old neighbour who had been shuffled off to a home for the seriously bewildered has fallen into a state of acute mental decline and is no longer the person he once was. As a keen gardener who was already well into his 60s when my memories of him start he was never the most fashionable soul, with trousers chosen for their longevity when subjected to the rigours of intensive domestic cabbage farming, rather than any conformity with the latest passing fad.

Likewise, his choice of motor vehicles was similarly conservative. For as long as I can remember, his jaunts around town were taken in a blue Austin Metro which was, for all intents and purposes, the automotive equivalent of his strides. Sensible, practical and without any deference to the modern world’s superficial trends.

However he was a good, kind, upstanding fellow who served his country in the Royal Navy and never shouted at me once despite my rugby ball continually landing in his sprouts. And it is terribly sad to hear that a man, once was capable of giving so much, is now into his tenth decade and incapable of performing the most basic of personal tasks without assistance.

"Trade it in for a Kia? Sod off!"

Yet it serves as a reminder that thanks to medical science and nutritional developments we are living longer and not everyone will fall into the same state of brain fade in their latter years that has overtaken my neighbour. And that almost certainly means that a lot of us will want to keep behind the wheel even deeper into our dotage.

And that begs the question; what will we drive?

While we can – and in many cases should – scoff the crap that the combined might of the world’s car manufacturers threw out in the 1970s and 1980s, there were a lot of sensible choices to be had for the motorist of advancing years. You could rely on a Peugeot 504, Mercedes E250, early model Rover 200 or pretty much any Volvo to provide stately, unflustered conveyance around the highways and byways in wonderfully beige comfort.

But what does the octogenarian motorist of the 21st century aspire to? It seems that every car on the market now has been tricked up for the demands of modern consumers – small hatches with their cutesy styling and MP3 connectivity, executive barges with more technology than the space shuttle and utes so huge that you’d struggle to climb into them with crampons, never mind a colostomy.

Sure there are cars that come with the geriatric stigma – the Yaris Fun Cargo and its ilk – but the reality is they are just the crap that no one else wants to be associated with and silver fox petrol heads deserve a bit better.

It will be a long time before the ultimate consumers of generation Y trade in their skinny jeans for support underwear and the motor manufacturers would do well to remember that. For the next umpteen years a whole new market is going to open up for a car that will give the senior generations a classy, practical, user-friendly vehicle that they can cherish and still glean the pleasure of motoring from.

So I leave this week with a message for the engineering team at BMW; get out there and start exploiting all those marques you acquired with the purchase of Rover. Because while a new MINI may have made you the coolest cats on the block, a not-too-new Triumph 2000 could easily see you crowned the King of Hip replacements.

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