Successfully giving up driving for older people
Musselwhite, C. (2011) Successfully giving up driving for older people. Discussion Paper. International Longevity Centre - UK.
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Older people as a cohort are more healthy and active than ever before and as such are also more mobile. They are more likely than ever before to be car users and be driving more miles. Nevertheless, many older people, for one reason or another often associated with physiology or cognitive ageing issues, are the group most likely to need to give-up driving, an act that is associated with an increase in depression and a poorer quality of life. This thinkpiece explores why this is, suggesting that while car travel fulfils practical and utilitarian needs which can be difficult to achieve without a car in an ever increasing hyper-mobile society that is geared more and more around the car, such as accessing shops, services and hospitals, there are also psychological or affective needs and aesthetic needs that are not met in a life without a car. For example, the car provides independence, affords status and conveys roles and responsibilities while showing an engagement with a normal society and allows the individual to engage in travel for its own sake. Life beyond the car is fraught with difficulties in achieving these needs. This paper examines how this might be overcome, discussing whether driving might be prolonged, despite the negative externalities to the environment and society of increased car usage, and the potential safety issues faced by older drivers. It suggests that some of the negative affect from giving-up driving might be mitigated if the locus of control remains with the individual and they plan to give-up driving with the support and help of family and friends over a long period of time gradually trialling other forms of transport. How these other forms of transport, including public and community transport and the walking and cycling infrastructure for example, might be improved to meet older people’s needs are also examined. Novel schemes such as lift-sharing or the Independent Transportation Network are noted in the possible package of solutions for a life beyond the car, along with the potential for mobility scooters and virtual mobility to provide some of the solution. Overall, older people need to remain in control and have a say in the transport solutions that are designed for them in a life beyond the car. A full list of recommendations are found in Section 8 of the report.
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