Transportation Tips for Older Adults

Few people are willing to move out of their home just to have access to transportation. However, for a growing number of seniors the choice to remain in their homes means struggling to accomplish simple tasks like grocery shopping and keeping doctor’s appointments. For seniors who can no longer drive or who live in areas without public buses and subways, the lack of transportation can significantly impact their quality of life.

Currently there are an estimated 8.4 million senior citizens who depend on others for their transportation. Transportation was reported as the number one reason why adults 60 and older sought help from a national referral center last year. The challenge of providing transportation for seniors is only going to grow as one of the largest segments of the U.S. population – Baby Boomers – turn 60. National estimates show that the number of older drivers will soon double (or more) and by the year 2030 the number of drivers over age 85 will be four to five times what it is today.

Not only are seniors aging, but the lack of transportation alternatives are keeping them on the road, even when they realize their ability to drive is compromised. It’s easy to understand if you put yourself in their shoes. Would you give up your license easily if you knew that isolation lay on the other side? Would you want to worry everyday about how you are going to get to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, or your weekly card game?

Thankfully, as a caregiver, you have the opportunity to make a difference. You can help the senior come to terms with giving up his or her license. You can help find alternatives modes of transportation and you can transport them to their activities and appointments.

What are the signs that a senior should no longer be driving? Rarely is it an abrupt change. The faculties that need to be sharp for safe driving diminish slowly with age. Some of the signs can include:

  • Physical changes: Inability to look over one’s shoulder, stiff joints that prevent quick movement from gas pedal to brake. Eyesight and hearing acuity declines.
  • Mental changes: Cognitive declines affect memory, ability to read maps, remember directions, and how to drive a car.
  • Removing driving privileges may improve the senior’s physical safety, but it can adversely impact their quality of life. It’s important to realize that taking away a senior’s license is a slippery slope:

  • Age-related functional declines or skill loss leads to less driving, or no driving at all.
  • Less/no driving leads to less overall mobility.
  • Less overall mobility leads to increased isolation and other adverse quality of life changes.
  • When the natural aging process makes driving a hazard, try to address it in a way that leaves the senior’s dignity intact, and with options in place that facilitate an active, engaging life.

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