When You Are Concerned - A guide for families, friends and caregivers concerned about the safety of an older driver(When You Are Concerned is also available as a PDF)
MOBILITY FOR LIFE
"Both of my folks outlived their ability to drive. Fortunately, they lived in a perfect location: within walking distance of most of the things they needed to stay independent. It worked fine for them. With family genetics what they are, it has occurred to me that I too, may outlive my ability to drive. That very notion has suddenly given new meaning to that old real estate mantra about what to look for in a house: Location. Location. Location."
Like the older person you are concerned about today, some day you too, may be in the same situation. You may outlive your ability to drive. What then? Will you be like the couple in the above vignette? Will you be fortunate enough to live within walking distance of the things you need to stay independent? If not, what will you do? How will you get to the grocery store or the doctor's office?
You might be thinking you've got lots of time to plan because your golden years are still to come. Hopefully you are correct. But if the truth be known, your driving privileges can be soundly trumped well before your golden years. In fact, you can find yourself ineligible for a license at almost any age.
Sure, you know about points for moving violations, DWIs, crashes and the resulting license suspensions and revocations. But did you know there are a number of medical, physical and emotional conditions, which can also separate you from your driver's license? Some at a moment's notice? The list below identifies conditions, which can put an end to your driving privileges, literally overnight!
- Cardiovascular (arhythmias, cardiac arrest, syncope and similar disorders).
- Neurological (seizures, stroke, dementia, narcolepsy, disorders or movement).
- Epilepsy and other episodic conditions causing recurrent loss of consciousness.
- Learning, memory and communication conditions.
- Psychiatric or emotional conditions.
- Alcohol and drug misuse (includes prescription and over-the-counter medications).
- Visual acuity loss (cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration, hypertensive or diabetic retinopathy, macular edema and stroke).
- Hypertension and chronic medical debility.
- Diabetic reactions.
- Musculoskeletal abnormalities.
- Functional motor ability loss which can not be compensated by personal devices, standard and non-standard vehicle accessories.
You've read the list. What if you woke up tomorrow with one of those conditions and were precluded from driving? You might be able to get rides for a few days, but after that, what would you do? How would you get to the grocery store, work, religious and medical services? What kind of transportation would allow you to do the important things in your now car-less life? What kind of transportation service should be available, at the very minimum? What would be especially helpful now?
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
- Take your responses to the above questions and share them with your local municipal, state and congressional officials.
- Tell your public transportation provider where you (and likely others, too) need to go and what you would like to see available to help with your transportation needs.
- Where possible, support public transportation programs. At hearings and forums.
- Encourage the development of volunteer driver programs.
- Educate local municipal planning and zoning boards to allow in-law apartments and to strive to keep the businesses people use, where people live.
- Encourage stores and shops to collectively provide senior shopping van services. Some grocery stores do this already. See if it can be expanded to other stores.
- Encourage government and community service organizations to put public transportation directions on their informational brochures and handouts. ("Our office can be reached by taking bus #6 or 21" or by taking Eberhard's shuttle service)
- Make up a "just in case" alternative transportation list of carriers, friends, relatives and other potential sources of help to take you where you need to go (also see Chapter 6).
- Involve college and university urban planners in educating your zoning boards and elected officials.
- Encourage the development of "livable communities" and "smart growth" programs. AARP's "Community Transportation Resource Worksheet" is a helpful tool to catalogue your local transportation options. It will also help you identify transportation resources if you decide to move to another locality.
RELOCATING TO IMPROVE MOBILITY
Moving close to transportation is a common solution for maintaining mobility. It can involve moving to housing near transportation services, moving in (home sharing) with someone who drives, or making that move to an in-law apartment or a retirement living community where you might be able to park the car for the duration.
Home sharing or living with someone unrelated is often overlooked as a solution for both housing and transportation needs. But, if you had a good experience as a student living with another person, home sharing can be an especially helpful solution to finding affordable housing AND convenient transportation. The "retirement and best places" guides (check bookstores, public library and the Internet) can also pinpoint locations where you don't have to rely totally on a car. Some of the latest guides give detailed transportation information.
Interestingly, more and more municipalities are coming to understand just how important non-automobile based mobility is for their residents and local economy. Businesses benefit when people have mobility options. As a result, many localities are beginning to develop their own local shuttle and jitney services. These are the communities where you may be able to permanently park the Buick or Honda. If relocation is in your plans, check the following:
- Your proximity to the things you use most often, like grocery stores, health and recreational, religious services, etc.
- Availability of taxis, dedicated vans and buses for medical transportation services, shopping and recreation services, and for those who are disabled.
- Routes of regular public transit and special public transit (paratransit) providing curb-to-curb or door-to-door services.
- Ease of transfer between different public and private transportation carriers. Is there a way of getting to and from the bus line or from the bus stop to where you need to go?
Keep in mind the coming demographic tidal wave of retirements and relocations will fuel the economies of many areas much the way a large corporation does when it relocates into an area. Some communities have already planned to capitalize on the shift. Their jurisdictions have begun vying for "seniors" by encouraging the development of recreation, health and, of course, non-automobile based transportation services for their residents.
The Internet is one way of finding information about communities and the services within their boundaries. At some point, you ought to be able to find on-line maps and transportation data for almost any locality.
And if you can't get out, the Internet will give you mobility of a different sort. While not a substitute for the real thing, it will be a way of accessing groceries, meals, banking services, medicine, medical information and perhaps even companionship when you can't get beyond your doorstep.
"Mobility for life" is really about access. Access can mean many things: good public or volunteer transportation; being within walking distance of the necessities of life; being around family and friends who will take care of those necessities when you can no longer do so, or being able to obtain what you need from a computer or TV screen.
You are not going to be able to drive your car to the cemetery, hand over the keys and step down into the box! More likely, you'll be fortunate enough to live a long life and in the process simply outlive your ability to drive. Not a bad deal when you consider the alternative!
If you haven't done any mobility planning, you aren't going to feel very fortunate about your gift of time. But if you have done some planning for your mobility needs, your story can have a nice end. Now you know. The rest is up to you. Good luck!
LePore, P.R (2000). When You are Concerned - A handbook for families, friends and caregivers
worried about the safety of an aging driver. Albany: New York State Office for the Aging.
For Additional Information:
New York State Office for the Aging
2 Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223-1251
1 (800) 342-9871
This handbook was developed by the
Older Driver Family Assistance Project of the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA).
The Project was funded by the New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee
under Grant #CP-9914013 and by the Allstate Insurance Foundation.
The Project was supported by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles,
New York State Police and New York State Department of Health.
"When You Are Concerned"A handbook for families, friends and caregivers worried about the safety of an aging driver.
Published in 2000
Philip LePore, Project Director
Erle Daniels, Director of Safety, NYS Department of Motor Vehicles
Barry Gell, John Fuhrman, Injury Control Program, NYS Department of Health
Assistant Police Chief William Georges, City of Albany Police Department
Rose Golden, Josephine Herrick, Commissioner, Albany County Department for the Aging
Marvin LeRoy, Executive Director, Karen Drumm, Alzheimer's Association of NY
Susan Leventer, Ph.D., Renee Pekmezaris, Ph.D., Parker Jewish Geriatric Institute
Sgt. Jon Lupo, Sgt. Dennis Jones, Traffic Services Unit, NY State Police
Ann McCartt, Ph.D., Mark Hammer, Ph.D., Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research
Carey Roessel, General Manager, Capitol District Transit Authority/Access Transit Services Inc., Colonie, NY
Joyce Dominick-Schaefer, Service Coordinator, Raymond Watkins Apartments, Saratoga Springs, NY
Philip McCallion, Ph.D., Sheldon R. Tobin, Ph.D., Ringel Institute, University at Albany
Kathleen Williams, Social Service Coordinator, The King's Apartments, Pawling, NY S
Sandy Hawver, LPN, Kingston Housing Authority, Kingston, NY
Dr. Laurence and Catherine Roth, Batavia, NY, Prevention Committee, Medical Society of New York State
Donna Stressel, OTR/CDRS, Sunnyview Hospital Driver Program, Schenectady, NY
Henry Wenzel, New York State Coordinator, AARP 55 Drive Alive Program
Paul Tazbir, Deputy Director, NYS Office for the Aging
Nicholas Rogone, PDI Bureau Director, NYS Office for the Aging
Richard Killian, Director, Caregiver & Respite Programs, NYS Office for the Aging
Kenneth H. Carpenter, Executive Director, New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC)
Sandy Foster, Allan Field, Anthony Mingione, GTSC
Honorable Richard E. Jackson, Jr., Commissioner, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Robert M. Dingman, Assistant Commissioner, DMV
Honorable James W. McMahon, Superintendent, New York State Police
Susan Hardman, Director, Bureau of Injury Prevention, New York State Department of Health
Sheila Breeding, Jody Mack, Joseph Hernandez, Allstate Insurance Company
John Eberhard, Ph.D., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Washington, D.C.
Ronnie Stearns, Ph.D., Harvey Stearns, Ph.D., Lifespan Inc., Akron, Ohio Audrey Straight, Esq.,
Public Policy Institute, AARP
Barry S. Reiss, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Pharmaceutics, Albany College of Pharmacy
Lynn Fuchs, President, A Woman's Way Driving School, Valley Stream, NY
Honorable Walter G. Hoefer, Director, New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA)
Patricia P. Pine, Ph.D., Executive Deputy Director, NYSOFA
Patricia Feeser, Tom Gallagher, Public Information Office, NYSOFA
Linda Hosmer, Resident Advisor Program, NYSOFA