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SECG Blog - Getting around when driving is no longer an option

By Nathan D’Cunha* (University of Canberra),
Stephanie Mulhall (Australian National University)
and Theresa Scott (University of Queensland)

*Member of the AAG SECG Communications Team

The ability to drive and get to valued destinations is something many of us take for granted. That is, until our ability to continue to drive becomes less certain. Older people are increasingly faced with decisions about driving and potentially retiring from driving. For some, these decisions are made as a result of a change in health or personal circumstances. And at times, the decisions are made as a result of recommendations by others such as concerned family members or health care professionals. As a result of the increasing number of older drivers and retiring drivers, there is growing research interest in the consequences of both continued driving and driving cessation among older people.

The importance of driving as a means of staying connected within the community and getting to and from places and events that are important to us is well recognised. As communities are becoming increasingly aware of the needs of older people and the importance of community mobility and access to safe and affordable transportation, a growing number of services are available and efforts are being made by some communities to improve access to public transport, affordable community transport and safe walkways.

However, while alternative transport options may be available, there are often barriers to the use of these alternative modes of transport. In a University of Queensland study, carers of people with dementia have reported concerns about the use of alternative transport options by their family member living with dementia despite satisfactory access to these services. These concerns are expressed by carers as worries about the challenges that may face their loved one with dementia, like following a timetable or knowing when to get off the bus. Given the need for these transport services, this begs the question: how can we ensure that transport options in our communities better meet the needs of older people, including those with dementia or cognitive impairment?

The impact of driving on our sense of independence and sense of self-efficacy is also important to consider. Access to a car and the ability to drive offers a degree of spontaneity that may be lost when driving is no longer an option. Other suitable modes of transport tend to require some degree of planning, whether this is having access to a bus schedule, planning a time with a friend or family member or calling in advance to book a community transport service. Other services which may offer on-demand transport such as ride-share options can be cost-prohibitive for some people and may not be accessible to others due to a technological barrier.

This also leads to questions about how we can improve access to transportation options that are low cost, but easy to use and allow for unplanned trips?

Like other life transitions and events, giving up driving can be a major transition for some people. And for others, the move to alternative transport options can be a positive experience free from the costs and stressors involved with staying on the road as a driver. As researchers, providers and people interested in ageing, it is important to consider driving and driving cessation with the driver as a whole person with unique needs in mind and consider ways to help answer the many questions which remain.

02 Dec 2020

If you know someone living with dementia who has stopped driving, or who is still driving but may need to consider retiring from driving in the future, please visit the link below:

Mr Nathan D’Cunha is a PhD candidate (Geriatrics & Gerontology) and
Associate Lecturer at the University of Canberra. Nathan’s research is
mainly focused on psychosocial interventions for people living with dementia,
and nutrition and ageing.

Ms Stephanie Mulhall is a PhD candidate (Clinical Psychology) at the
Australian National University. Her broad research interests include
factors associated with maintaining cognitive and mental health into
later life. Her PhD research investigates menopause and reproductive
ageing and its association with cognitive function and mental health
among ageing women.

Dr Theresa Scott is a Lecturer in Clinical Geropsychology and National
Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC-ARC) Dementia Research
Development Fellow at the University of Queensland. Her research is
focused on translating the Carfreeme driving cessation intervention to be
relevant for people with younger- and late-onset dementia.

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