There are many reasons why someone would consider giving up car ownership and their driver’s license, but hesitate at the idea. It is hard to imagine giving up the freedom and autonomy of being able to go wherever, whenever. There does come a point for older adults when it just makes sense to give up driving. Fortunately, thanks in large part to advances in technology, there are many ways for seniors to get around without a car.
First Off, Why Don’t Some Seniors Drive?
An age-related decline in reflexes, eye sight, hearing, memory, or reasoning skills is a normal thing for an older adult to experience (https://www.nia.nih.gov) and a common reason why some come to the decision to retire from driving.
Changes in health can affect a person’s driving ability in many ways. Arthritis can limit range of motion as well as speed of motion, making it harder to react in a timely manner while behind the wheel. Seniors are likely to be on medications that can have side effects inhibiting their driving ability.
As some people start to experience the onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, which affects decision making skills and memory, everyday tasks can become a lot harder to perform. Often the person will not realize at first that their driving skills are diminishing, until they start noticing new dents and dings in the car and are unable to remember how they got there. Some drivers will start to get easily confused and lost, even in neighborhoods that are extremely familiar to them.
Though older adults tend to be among the safest drivers on the road by following traffic laws closely, such as wearing a seatbelt and not drinking before driving, they are at a higher risk for injury or fatality in an accident due to the increased fragility of their body (https://www.cdc.gov).
Is There an Age that Seniors Should Stop Driving?
No, there is not a set age that someone should stop driving. Everyone experiences the effects of aging differently and every person has a unique set of circumstances that shape the details of their life. It is usually up to the individual, and their friends and family, to be aware of any decline in their ability to drive safely.
That being said, there are some rules put into place that are meant to help keep everyone on the road as safe as possible. In most places once a person reaches a certain age, they are required to test their driving skills on a semi-regular basis. In Indianapolis specifically, drivers 75 and over are required to renew their license in person every three years, and persons 85 and older are required to do so every two years. This renewal process includes a vision test and can include a road test if there is concern about the driver’s ability (https://www.nolo.com).
Here’s how do Seniors Get Around Without a Car
Coming to the decision to give up driving doesn’t mean that a certain level of freedom and independence can be maintained. There are still many ways to get around and more options are being created all the time. Let’s have a look at some of the most available and widely used ways to get around without a car.
Taking the bus has long been a popular way for those without vehicles to get around. While less populated areas may have limited access to buses, many cities have frequent, convenient stops that are easy to use. Other forms of public transportation can include subways, trains, trolleys. Some cities have Paratransit services available to help those who are unable to use the fixed schedules and routes offered in their area (https://www.nationalexpresstransit.com). We explore several types of public transportation in an article covering senior transport services.
An increasingly popular and available transportation option is using a rideshare app such as Lyft or Uber. These services allow people to have a safe, convenient ride, by getting picked up and taken to their location quickly, anytime they need it, without having to wait on anyone else, though there is usually an option to share the ride for a cheaper rate
Lack of ability to use technology does not have to be a barrier for seniors using Lyft or Uber. GoGoGrandparent can be used to call and schedule rides without having to set up an account and use the app. Uber also has uberASSIST available which does the same thing, and both companies offer senior discounts (https://www.retirementliving.com).
In some places, taxi services are available, and unlike Lyft and Uber, they can be hailed from the street, which in some cases can be preferable to waiting for the driver to show up and then trying to figure out which car it is.
Many communities have programs that are designed to help fill the transportation needs of older adults. In Indianapolis for example, Way2Go transportation services are available through the organization, CICOA, Connecting Central Indiana Older Adults, helping people get connected to specialized transportation services and discounts (https://cicoa.org).
In some cases, trips to a doctor’s appointment or other health appointments can be scheduled through medicaid. In Indiana, the Family and Social Services Administration works with a company Southeastrans to schedule and provide rides for their members (https://www.in.gov).
How to Move Forward
There are many options for seniors who need to get around without a car to explore. Make sure to find out what programs might be available through the local community as they can often help fill any gaps in the need for transportation and offer connection to other supportive resources. For additional assistance, consider senior care services such as home care or companion services for dedicated rides from trusted and vetted individuals.
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