Almost half (44%) of drivers aged 70 and over say they would feel like they’d lost part of their identity if they were not able to drive. Meanwhile, for more than nine in ten (91%) older drivers it would mean a loss of independence, and almost three in five (57%) say they wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with family and friends. That’s according to a new survey by older people’s charity, Independent Age.
A rural lifeline
The negative emotional effects of not being able to drive become even starker when comparing older people in rural areas with those living in densely populated regions
Those in rural areas say they would be more likely to feel lonelier or more isolated if they were no longer able to drive (54% in lightly populated areas as opposed to 40% in densely populated areas), more likely to feel like they’d lost a part of their identity (48% vs. 41%) and more likely to think their wellbeing or general health would suffer (46% vs. 29%), showing that being able to drive represents much more than just getting from A to B for many older people.
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Keeping in touch
Other key findings of the Censuswide poll of 2,003 drivers aged 70 and over in the UK found:
• The top three things that older drivers use their cars for are: shopping (96%), visiting family and friends (90%), and visiting the GP or accessing other health services (72%).
• A significant number of older drivers are relied on by other people: over a quarter (27%) of older drivers use their car for caring responsibilities such as driving friends or family to hospital visits or helping with shopping, and more than one in five (22%) drive grandchildren to and from school or extra-curricular activities.
• Almost three quarters (73%) of drivers aged 70 and over would feel reluctant to ask friends or family for lifts if they were no longer able to drive and one in 20 (5%) say they don’t have any friends or family they could ask for a lift.
• Nine in 10 (90%) older drivers say having a car is important to them because they like the freedom of being able to go where they want, when they want.
50 years on the road
According to the survey, drivers aged 70 and over first started driving an average of 49 years ago, and three in five (60%) have been driving for more than 50 years. Almost four in five (78%) older people drive at least once every other day. Men drive more frequently than women, with over half (56%) of older male drivers driving every day, compared to fewer than two in five (38%) female drivers aged 70 and over.
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Geoffrey, 93, from Ipswich, who featured in ITV’s 100 Year Old Driving School, says, “I have been driving since I was 18 and I would be lost without it. Driving means everything to me. It gives me freedom to go somewhere without asking anyone else to help. I couldn’t bear to be a burden on my family, saying, ‘Take me here, take me there.’ I would hate to have to ask and lose my independence.”
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5 million older drivers
There are almost five million people over the age of 70 who hold licences in the UK, with more than 100,000 of those over the age of 90. When a driver reaches the age of 70, they are required to renew their licence every three years by the DVLA.
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, says, “For many older people, being able to drive means so much more than just being able to get out-and-about. Whether it’s keeping in touch with family and friends or continuing to do their shopping, driving can help maintain a sense of independence, and identity too. There are many benefits to continuing to drive into older age and, as long as they remain safe, older people should be able to continue driving for as long as they want to."
"There are many benefits to continuing to drive into older age and, as long as they remain safe, older people should be able to continue driving for as long as they want to."
She adds: "It’s also vital that people who are no longer able to drive have access to information on the various options available for getting around without a car. Older people and their families who want to find more about driving in later life or options if they are no longer able to drive, can order our free guide, Behind the Wheel: Tips for safe and confident driving in later life.”
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Plan for the future
Kevin Clinton, Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), says, “As we get older, changes in our fitness and eyesight can affect our ability to drive safely, but there are lots of things we can do to continue driving safely for as long as possible, such as taking regular driving assessments, planning when and where we drive to avoid situations we find difficult, taking advice from our GP, family and friends, or adapting our car.”
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A free guide for safer driving in later life
The new guide, Behind the Wheel: Tips for safe and confident driving in later life, is full of helpful information to support older drivers. It covers topics such as staying safe and boosting confidence on the road, the law relating to older drivers and driving with medical conditions, when to think about stopping driving and the alternatives to driving. The guide is accompanied by online information for the families of older drivers around how to start difficult conversations about driving.
Behind the Wheel is free to order and download from Independent Age, or can be ordered by calling 0800 319 6789.
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