This thinkpiece identifies how 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 to be driving more miles.
It explores how physiological and cognitive changes associated with age effect older drivers and why they 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. The thinkpiece suggests 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, there are also psychological or affective needs and aesthetic needs that are not met in a life without a car.
Dr Charles Musselwhite, Senior Lecturer in Traffic & Transport Psychology with the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK, and author of this thinkpiece, suggests older people can successfully give-up driving without negative or adverse effects if the following are taken into account:
- Encourage practical and emotional support for older people, not just to give lifts but to understand and sympathise with the perceived loss of independent mobility.
- Encourage contemplation of giving-up driving from a young allowing time to gradually reduce driving and to trial different modes
- Encourage self-regulation with regards to driving, with support from evaluated training and in-vehicle technologies as appropriate.
- The virtues of a life closer to home with less travel should be promoted amongst older people.
- Alternative modes of transport and the walking and cycling infrastructure have to be fit for purpose.
The thinkpiece recommends:
- Recognising the importance of travel beyond the need to get from A to B.
- Recognising the importance of considering giving-up driving early-on in life to allow a more gradual process of giving-up driving.
- Keeping the locus of control over the decision to stop driving with the person themselves.
- Helping older people learn the norms associated with travelling in other means than the car.
- More research is needed into key areas of older people and transport (especially with regards to evaluating driver training aimed at older people and the importance of discretionary travel in quality of life).
Musselwhite writes “Older people need to be mobile for a variety of reasons. These include accessing daily services and shops and remaining connected to friends, family and other social events. Yet travel goes beyond that, it is a way of maintaining independence, of conveying status and image and an access to life beyond the home, a way of engaging with nature and seeing the world.”