Tips for Transportation for Seniors
Did you know that driving is the primary mode of transportation for a majority of Canadian adults, including seniors? Amongst seniors aged 65-74, almost 70% reported driving their vehicle at the age of 85 or older, and nearly 30% relied on driving to be their primary mode of transportation. Given the high amount of dependence on cars, some seniors continue driving even after their physical and mental capacity starts deteriorating. Among seniors with significant vision impairments, 9% reported driving in the previous month, and 70% reported driving as their primary form of transportation. More than one in five seniors who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia drove in the previous month, and 17% reported driving as the primary form of transportation. Continuing to drive with mild visual or cognitive limitations does not always increase risk, but driving with significant impairment is a problem. The challenge is to ensure that seniors who should no longer drive should have access to a range of affordable and appropriate alternatives to meet their transportation needs. Transportation is essential for seniors’ independence, social engagement, and overall health, but at the same time, it has to be safe for them and society. This is a complicated matter.
To touch base upon issues like these, we had Samantha Rodeck join us recently. Samantha is a community development consultant working with TONS – Transportation Options Network for Seniors. For the past several years, Samantha focused her work on community capacity building within the nonprofit sector. She specifically works with community groups and supports older people. Samantha educates supports and inspires individuals to live a positive, fulfilling life and continuously works to give voice to the individuals who are often not heard for themselves.
We have to look at the fact that most people across Canada and most of the developed countries have grown up driving. So, that sense of freedom that comes from driving is part of their identity. So, when we see people no longer being able to drive, we often see them become depressed, isolated, and lonely. The piece of their character is lost when they don’t have that ability just to drive to do what they love to do. It’s their sense of freedom and independence; it’s a piece of them.
Look for Alternative Options
When you’re looking at transportation options, it’s essential first to assess what kind of ability you have. Are you in need of accessible transportation, or are you able to navigate potentially using public transit? You also have to consider where you live, and if you live within the city or if you live beyond the city limits, your transportation options are going to change drastically. For people living in Winnipeg, it depends on what type of community you live in and what kind of groups are established, but you always have your standard taxis. There are hailing ride vehicles, ride-sharing ones and you can carpool too. If you know, you’re going to the same kind of senior center or program, connect with your neighbors and carpool. If you need a little extra support getting to a medical appointment and you need that comfort of having someone with you, there are private companies that are into accompaniment services. The most important thing for sustainability and freedom for older adults is to use the public transit system. Although it has few imperfections, it is a way to get around affordably. Some older adults lived outside of the city before their retirement, who may have never used public transit before. So, think of it as a skill and start using public transportation. Grab a friend and go because it’s going to be your most affordable way to get around, and they are accessible. There are several convenient options too. It depends on what your needs are.
Community Resource Coordinators
The resource coordinator, or you can call them a support worker or community development worker, is someone whose role is like a researcher. They research all of the tools, all of the resources, anything that can benefit older adults, they’ll be the ones who have those contact numbers. They’ll have information on the resources, specifically for transportation. So, if transportation alternative methods are something that you are exploring now, reaching out to your community resource coordinator or social support services worker is a reliable option to consider. They have a lot of information, and I think it’s essential to go through such channels because they have already vouched and vetted many services. These are the kind of services you should be pairing your older adult with.
Having that Conversation
The first question for you if you are a caregiver and panicking about your older adult driving is, have you had the conversation with them? As mentioned earlier, it’s a piece of their identity, and it’s a piece of their dignity, it’s their freedom. So, when you take something away from somebody, they’re going to grieve that. They’re going to grieve that loss, especially if it happens too fast. So, have that conversation with your parents because you have to remember that person(possibly) has a disability or an illness. But, there’s still a human behind that disability or illness. And you also have to remember that that piece of them can’t be snatched right away. You have to have a conversation. And even before you get to the point of taking their keys or calling their License Insurance company, have the conversation. But research what’s in your community. Think about what are they able to use? Will they use public transit? Or are they better off with a private company? What’s going to meet their needs? So, connect to your resources, and go to your resource coordinators. So, before you get into the crisis mode, research the options because there’s nothing worse than waiting till the last minute saying, ‘my parent has an appointment the next day, I can’t drive them,’ start planning. Ask your older adults how good are they with using phone apps for public transit. Maybe they need some handholding in the beginning, but if you provide them that support, it will make your caregiving journey more manageable.
The most crucial tip for older adults when it comes to transportation is to keep walking as much as you can. Stay mobile, keep walking. If you walk between 15 to 30 minutes a day, you can increase your driving years by five to ten. Because if you can continue to stay mobile as much as you can, you are continuing to keep yourself open to many transportation options because if you think you can stay relatively mobile, you can use the transit system. That overall physical health that you get when you just keep walking and keep moving is what you see as the most important factor to longevity. Your body is a form of transportation, and as much as you can use that, just keep walking.
Being able to drive is a form of independence for everyone. Respecting that and also providing better alternatives for your older adult would be the right way to deal with it.
Ashton Applewhite- We also interviewed Ashton Applewhite, who is a world leader for on the subject of ageism, and she gave various examples of how our society has some built-in ageism policies. You can listen to the podcast here (link).
Eric Daw – We also interviewed Eric Daw, who is a physical fitness guru, especially for older adults. You can listen to the podcast (link).