Driving a car enables a senior to be independent as they age.
They can travel where they want, when they want until they can no longer safely remain behind the wheel.
Depending on someone else, especially a family caregiver, to get them where they need or want to go becomes a way of life no senior really desires.
The US Department of Transportation estimates that, since 1999, the number of seniors on the road has increased 50% to more than 40 million people.
A National Council on Aging (NCOA) survey reports that safe driving is among the top ten concerns for seniors aging in place.
Unfortunately, conditions such as cognitive loss and impaired vision increases their risk for a fatal crash.
When the decision is made to give up the keys for safety, how will your senior loved one remain independent?
Helping Seniors Get Around Town
Just like family caregivers, seniors often have many places to go each day.
They need to visit healthcare professionals, go grocery shopping, visit the pharmacy, go out with friends, go to church, get their haircut, volunteer in the community, go to community events, watch a movie, go to the bank, and many other socialization opportunities to stay physically and mentally healthy.
When they can’t just jump into an automobile, how will they get to all these places and stay engaged?
Did you know that nearly 20% of those over 65 (7 million people) don’t drive at all?
There are some options for them to get places but will probably need the help of family caregivers to help them connect with all these different types of conveyances.
Seniors’ Transportation Options
- As a pedestrian – walking on sidewalks or trails designated safe for people to walk to restaurants, shops, grocery stores, services, doctors or parks. Many big cities have become ‘walkable’ so that their citizens can safely interact with the community.
- Biking – whether with two or three wheels, seniors can get around on a bicycle using accessible city byways. They can even have baskets attached to help carry their belongings.
- Public transportation – riding a bus, rapid rail or subway around town to and from important locations can get them back and forth. Many cities have systems but unfortunately not all.
- Trains – when getting from one town to the next is more than a walk away.
- Taxis – whether on the road or on the water; some cities have subsidized taxi services for their older citizens.
- Ride sharing – Uber, Lyft, and other for-a-fee rides that are available on call to get from one location to the next, no advance scheduling required.
- Family and friends – depending on another to drive where and when you need it. This usually takes communication ahead of time to schedule rides, especially when family caregivers are employed.
- Medical transport – fee for service medical transport for seniors who have mobility limitations. Most of these need to be scheduled days in advance and often leave seniors waiting for pickups.
- Volunteers – there are organizations who fund volunteers who will transport seniors to their destination. It gives the volunteer a sense a purpose while giving a senior in need a free ride. Many such groups work specifically with veterans using veteran volunteers who want to help fellow soldiers.
- Self-driving cars!! Many people are still skeptical about autonomous cars, but they are on the way. Manufacturers think they may be here in the next few years, in fact. Fully autonomous cars may come further in the future than some current seniors will need. Did you know that the SELF DRIVE Act specifically says that self-driving cars have the potential to help seniors live independently and is a primary benefit of these cars?
Investigate Your Senior’s Options
The transportation options for your senior loved one will depend, in part, on the community in which they live.
For rural seniors, for example, public transportation is not always available as well as some other services that those in bigger cities are able to connect to for transport. These rural seniors may be forced to move to a different home where more transportation options are available so that they can remain independent especially accessing healthcare.
Family caregivers want their seniors to remain in the home of their choice and be independent as long as possible. Unfortunately, gaining access to transportation is one piece of the puzzle that needs to be considered for successful aging in place.
Enabling our senior loved ones to live their life fully will involve empowering them to get where they want — or need — to go, when they want to get there.
As family caregivers, we need to ensure that doesn’t end when our seniors stop driving.