Gaps in public transportation may keep seniors driving longer than they should, according to a new study published by the Conference Board of Canada. The study, reported by the Toronto Star, found that fewer than 8 per cent of seniors rely on public transit as their primary form of transportation. More startling is the discovery that one in five seniors diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s reported they still drove.
These finding are concerning. Although new guidelines have been put in place to tighten the licensing of drivers over the age of 80, meeting the transportation needs of older adults will be the best way to prevent accidents and injury. In many cases, elderly drivers may be able to pass the licensing test but are not safe to be driving.
With the senior population rapidly growing over the coming years, work to fill transportation gaps needs to happen quickly. Volunteer-based driving services, para-transit and making changes to the current transportation routes to better service the needs of seniors are some of the solutions suggested by the report. Because studies have shown that stopping driving can lead to depression, impede access to medical care and proper nutrition, creating a comprehensive list of transportation alternatives is important for seniors and caregivers to help smooth the transition.
In addition to finding transportation alternatives for seniors, driver-cessation programs can help support family caregivers when their loved one needs to stop driving. Ideally, elderly adults will talk with family well in advance of stopping driving and come up with alternative transportation plans before the need arises. But more often, dementia or other chronic health problems can force caregivers or doctors to take away the keys swiftly and suddenly and this can often cause strong reactions from elderly drivers. The loss of independence along with other changes common in old age can be overwhelming.
For a complete driving and dementia toolkit, visit the Regional Geriatric Program website by following this link.