Aging

What Happens When I Can No Longer Drive?

Share this post:

People love their cars. For most teenagers, getting their license is a much anticipated milestone, increasing their independence and opening up new opportunities and adventure (often to the chagrin of their parents). For most older adults, the day they decide to stop driving is also a milestone, albeit a dreaded one representing a loss of freedom and control over their lives.

Unless they are living in a major metropolitan area well served by safe, reliable public transportation, most seniors rely on cars for their daily activities – shopping, errands, visiting friends and family, involvement in community activities, appointments and cultural events. And, when they surrender the keys, the emotional and physical impact can be high.elderly-woman-driving

According to Dr. Kevin Manning, neuropsychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UConn Health Center for Aging, “We know that when someone can no longer drive, there is an increased risk of depression and mortality because you are taking away their independence.”

As part of our work to create the world’s most accessible, self-driving vehicle, we recently visited four retirement communities in Southern California. With the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, we held a series of focus groups with the residents to gauge their reaction to self-driving vehicles, as well as get their recommendations for improvements to Olli.

Many of the residents were still driving their own cars and expressed a great deal of reluctance to stop. As one participant shared, “I’ve been driving since I was 14. Driving is part of who I am, and when I stop I am not sure who I will be.”

However, nearly all voiced concerns about the dangers of continuing to drive. While some pointed to their visual and mobility issues, many worried more about other drivers and traffic. Several no longer drove at night or to unfamiliar locations. With local public transportation limited and the costs of taxis and ride services like Uber and Lyft relatively high, most were frustrated with a limited set options and feeling increasingly isolated.

When we introduced Olli, we expected skepticism on self-driving and questions about safety. Instead, the most common inquiry was, “How soon can we get this at my community?”

The residents were eager to share their ideas on improving Olli, and suggested the following:

  • Personalize the interaction with Olli, with options to receive and give information via speech for those with visual impairments, or text or haptic (touch) technology for those with hearing loss.
  • For those using a cane, walker or wheelchair, have Olli automatically adjust the entrance and seat height as well as provide a storage area for their assistive devices.
  • Provide a voice activated service or app to call for or schedule an Olli ride.

After our workshops at the FrontPorch communities, I’m convinced that the most enthusiastic early adopters of self-driving vehicles will be older adults.

We encourage everyone to get involved and share their thoughts on possible ways of designing a vehicle to be more accessible to people of all abilities. Please use #AccessibleOlli on Twitter or post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Add Comment
No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *

More Aging Stories
By Sheila Zinck on July 20, 2017

Connecting the Dots to Make Austin an Age-Progressive City

Interview with Teresa Sansone Ferguson, Executive Director, AustinUp The recent IBM study “Loneliness and the aging population – how businesses and governments can address a looming crisis” noted that any solution designed to mitigate loneliness must involve wide range of stakeholders – family, caregivers, healthcare practitioners, social workers, and more – all of whom want […]

Continue reading

By Susann Keohane on June 6, 2017

Accessible Design for an Aging Population

by Bo Campbell & Susann Keohane Violet Brown is the oldest living person on this planet at 117 years old. Today, to make the list of the top 100 oldest living people, you much be aged 110 years or older. We are dawning on the age of the super-centenarian, someone who has lived to or […]

Continue reading

By Sheila Zinck on May 10, 2017

Combating Loneliness in the Aging Population

The world’s aging population is expanding rapidly, and by 2050 more than one out of five people will be age 60 or older. A new epidemic is growing just as quickly, with 43% of people over 60 reporting that they are suffering from loneliness. With an impact often equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, loneliness […]

Continue reading