A recent NPR article had an interview with a 94-year-old that planned for the day when she would stop driving and then did so as planned. Planning for your “driving retirement” is something that the majority of people don’t even consider. Some seniors might consider hanging up the keys but they are afraid of losing their independence. Others simply refuse to admit they need to stop driving and most of the time the family has to intervene.
As the woman in the NPR interview said, planning for it and knowing when to stop driving is very important. For her, that moment came in her 80’s when she noticed her eyesight was declining, making her anxious to drive on the highway. She also did not want her children to have to go through a difficult conversation with her and possibly make the decision for her, causing friction and possible hurt feelings. But that happens quite often for other families. It is not an easy conversation to have.
Aging doesn’t guarantee that you will need to stop driving, but giving up driving is a lot less scary if you plan for it. The steps that will ensure an easier transition to being a non-driver are some of the same tips that will help keep you driving longer.
- Keep on moving! Staying active through walking and exercise improves your flexibility and overall mobility. Physical conditioning has been shown to improve driver performance. And walking/cycling is a great way to travel for short distance trips and to access the bus or train station.
- Be mindful of your health. Driving ability is related more to health than age. There is no single age that someone needs to stop driving. Know the signs that it is time to give up driving.
- Travel using public transportation. Familiarize yourself with the options where you live and use them long before you need to stop driving.
- Sign up for a travel training class. If you aren’t sure how to use public transit, consider signing up for a travel training class. Greater Mercer TMA offers classes that teach you how to use transit, including a field trip on the bus. Contact GMTMA to sign up for a class!
- Learn about Community Transportation options for seniors. In Mercer County RideProvide and TRADE are available as well as many other municipal options. Check out the Mercer County Mobility Guide to learn about other options. In Ocean County, Ocean Ride is available.
- Become familiar with other alternatives such as carpooling, taxis and ride-hailing services.
- Expand your social connections and find travel buddies. Whether you take transit together or drive together you will be able to help each other out if you transition to a non-driver.
- Understand the benefits of not driving. Not driving means saving on the cost of car ownership. Driving less will also save you money. It also encourages more biking and walking which will improve your overall health.
Although it may take some lifestyle adjustment and planning, there are transportation alternatives available for the non-driver. Start by cutting down on driving and replacing some of the trips with other transportation options. If you do, it will be a lot easier and less stressful to stop driving should that decision need to happen.
If you or your loved ones live in Mercer County, contact us to see if they qualify for the Ride Provide Transportation Program, a door-to-door transportation program. With trips to medical appointments, hair salon, shopping, and other social activities, the program offers more flexibility than many other programs.
And as always, stay safe!