Seniors & Driving: Mobility, Control & Choice
What is it about driving that makes it the ultimate freedom? Is it the rush of the pavement beneath us as we roar down the highway, or is it the idea of being able to come and go any time we want? My first article in February of 2018 dealt with seniors and independence. Driving a car isn’t our first independent act, but it certainly gives us more independence and freedom.
I had no desire to write an article on the psychology behind why driving is so ingrained in our culture. Volumes have already been written, and I thought it best to leave that discussion alone. Besides, it was not what I wanted to focus on. Luckily, I found an article by Krystal D’Costa, a cultural anthropologist, who, I believe, has said it best. Driving, she says, is not only about mobility, it’s about control and making choices. I agree.
Independence is about making choices. For many, driving is the ultimate independent skill. It means we are no longer a slave to staying in one place. We can go anywhere anytime. As I have pointed out in past articles, age and time are the great equalizers. We may age differently, but age we do, experiencing a gradual erosion of those skills we cherish most. When we no longer have control and lose our choices, we, seemingly, lose our independence.
Seniors face many challenges hampering their ability to drive. The biggest hurdle may be mobility. Walking easily, moving side to side or climbing is, for many seniors, problematic. Problems with vision are a second obstacle many seniors face.” The four most common age-related eye diseases (AREDs) are glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts.” A third common issue is dementia. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that 1 of 7 seniors over age 70 suffers some form of memory loss. These issues are not the only challenges that could impact a senior’s ability to drive. Other difficulties could include heart disease and arthritis.
In that first article of February a year ago, I borrowed the Merriam-Webster definition of independence:
“The quality or state of not being under the control of, reliant on, or connected with someone or something else.”
This definition suited my purposes a year ago, but I now wish to correct myself. As we mature, we can still remain independent, but as skills erode, one must be able to adapt and adopt. In so doing, most any senior can still retain a level of independence, even if driving is no longer an option. As we age, it is essential, therefore, to adapt and adopt the necessary skills and aids that give independence.
No longer driving does not mean a senior has zero independence. Just the opposite. Today I am beginning a four-week series on driving. In the coming weeks I will be inviting guest writers to introduce their services from hiring a car/driver to purchasing a wheelchair van. Finally, we will hear from an occupational therapist on what steps must be taken after an illness or accident to get back behind the wheel. I hope you enjoy the ride.