Recently I met with a lovely couple and they were imagining what life would be like when they could no longer safely drive a car. Needing assistance with transportation is one of the primary reasons people feel that they need to move to a retirement community or to make a major change in their lifestyles. We do find ourselves feeling very impaired when we cannot get around by car. In fact, it’s a source of great fear among older adults that I hear pervasively.
Then, this same couple said optimistically, “we can’t wait for the self-driving car.” I was so inspired by their response to the dreaded topic of “relinquishing your car keys” that I have since been researching and diving into the issue of transportation options. As a result I’d like to offer a more expanded view of modern day transportation assistance, one filled with some hope and promise, rather than the fear of loss of independence.
It is true that the physical and mental changes we face as we age can affect our ability to drive so I offer the following to consider.
AARP offers an online course for driver safety that is low cost, and could potentially offer insurance discounts. AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association have teamed up to offer a program called CarFit that helps older adults ensure their cars fit them well and as a result provide a safer driving experience. The program offers events throughout the country so older drivers can have their cars evaluated for them.
Along this same train of thought, as you may consider a new vehicle, nowadays there are some impressively robust safety features available. I recently rented a Hyundai, and had a first-hand experience with a steering wheel that auto-corrected course when veering out of the lane, buzzers that activated when I was getting too close to another obstacle, and speed limit notifications on the windshield visible at all times. Admittedly, it took a while to get adjusted, but as I reflected on the notion of a self-driving car, these features were a clear premonition of what is coming.
I realize that there is some controversy over Uber and Lyft, but my recent experiences with getting downtown on a Saturday night were superlative. It was inexpensive and easy, and I hardly waited at all once I called for a driver. We have LiveWell members who live and drive in their neighborhood but use Uber to get the symphony at night downtown. Lyft announced earlier this year a partnership with National Medical Transport to help adults who don’t have smartphones get to non-emergency medical appointments. While this partnership is focused on New York City, hopefully the service will expand across the country.
Another option are volunteer driver programs. Not sure if your city has such a program? The National Volunteer Transportation Center maintains a list of programs state-by-state.
Honestly, I’d never heard of a self-driving car, but it’s apparently not too far off. If this is in development, just imagine the options that may present themselves in the near future.
While the idea of giving up your car may be unthinkable, the growing transportation options available should make the transition less overwhelming.
Jane Kelley serves as the Executive Director of Home & Community Services which includes LiveWell By Blakeford, a Life Plan at Home program unique to Middle Tennessee and Blakeford At Home, our CARF-CCAC accredited provider of at-home services.