There comes a time in an elderly person’s life when it’s just not safe for them to drive any more, and they must stop. In fact, all too often, they don’t stop until well after that point is reached, putting both themselves and others at risk. But eventually there’s just no way for anyone to deny it, and so they must transition to a life without the independence and autonomy of driving.
Though they’ve lost an important transportation option when they give up their driver’s license, an elderly person is not then doomed to a life of never being able to leave the house. There are alternatives. Those alternatives may fall short of being able to drive oneself-in terms of cost, inconvenience, having to rely on others for favors, lack of spontaneity, and more-but they are certainly better than nothing.
Naturally one’s first thought is to consider what anyone of any age does that does not own a car for whatever reason. Certainly not everyone without a car is permanently housebound. How do people get around?
Among other things, carless people walk, bicycle, ride with other people who do have cars, take taxis, and take public transportation such as buses and subways.
Some of these options are likely to be unrealistic for a given elderly person, depending on why they had to give up driving. Someone who had to stop driving because of physical disabilities, vision issues, mental deterioration, etc., for instance, might well not be able to ride a bike, or not be able to walk more than a short distance, if that. But some of these options may fit a given elderly person’s needs reasonably well, albeit after a period of adjustment.
Many seniors have enhanced their mobility with electric scooters. Like high tech versions of electric wheelchairs, these devices are a handy way for elderly people to traverse short to medium distances-such as around the neighborhood-that they can no longer realistically walk.
Nowadays in many communities there are additional transportation options available specifically for seniors. Broadly speaking, these options fall into three categories:
1. Fixed route
This concept is closest to that of a city bus. A van or bus for the elderly travels a set route, making fixed stops. There are no reservations, any more than there would be for a standard bus. Fixed route transportation for seniors is generally free or low cost.
This concept is closest to that of a taxi. Advance reservations are made, and a vehicle is dispatched to pick up the senior and take them where they need to go, such as to a doctor’s appointment. The vehicles are generally equipped to be able to handle wheelchairs, and often the drivers are health professionals who can handle an emergency situation. Usually these services charge at least a small fee.
3. Ride sharing
This concept is closest to that of riding in a private car with a friend or family member. In many communities, senior organizations have established a network of volunteers with cars who make themselves available to provide rides for elderly people who can no longer drive themselves. The farther in advance arrangements are made, the more likely a volunteer will be available. The senior can be taken to one specific destination, or taken to multiple places, such as to run errands. Since the drivers are volunteers, the service is most often provided free or at low cost.
A local social service organization that specializes in senior issues is a great place to contact to find out what specific transportation options are available in your area.
Understandably seniors are unlikely to embrace any of these options without an adjustment period, as none fully replaces the autonomy of driving one’s own car. But it’s necessary to make the most of the situation one finds oneself in, and that includes finding a suitable means of transportation when driving is no longer an option.
“Elder Care in Home-Transportation Ideas for Elderly Parents.” Boomers with Aging Parents.
“Issues facing older adults who may be losing their ability to drive.” National Caregivers Library.