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Independence from driving hard for seniors to relinquish

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
February 10, 2017
Spotlight on Seniors

Research conducted by Home Instead Senior Care franchise network indicates that surveyed North American seniors are still very active on the road, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) driving three to five days a week, and more than half (56 percent) averaging more than 25 miles per week. In particular, the surveyed seniors in their 70s are more likely than those in their 80s to drive at least once a day (and those in their 70s also tend to feel more comfortable driving themselves).

The survey results reiterated that these seniors are heavily dependent upon having a car and driving (particularly those in their 70s vs. those 80 or older). This ability gives them independence and freedom to do what they want, wherever and whenever they want. Therefore, it’s not surprising this loss of independence – along with an increased reliance on family and friends to get around – are the things that most concern them with losing their ability to drive.

To that end, nearly half of these seniors are at least somewhat concerned with losing their driving ability. However, these seniors appear to be fairly mindful when on the road. Their increased discomfort with driving in certain situations has been influenced primarily by their awareness – both of others’ driving capabilities and their own. Nearly one quarter of these current drivers are driving less because of their concerns, which indicates a self-awareness on their behalf to limit their driving if they’re not comfortable in certain situations.

Additionally, 37 percent of those surveyed who don’t currently limit their driving indicate they’d consider doing so if they started to feel less confident on the road. For those who aren’t considering giving up their driving privileges completely or even limiting them, the factors that will likely have the most impact in getting them to reconsider this decision include an actual physical limitation, a recommendation from their doctor or a medication that will hamper their ability to drive (i.e., factors that may not necessarily give them much of an option to continue driving). While roughly one-third of the surveyed senior drivers say that a recommendation from a friend or family member may make them reconsider their decision to limit or give up their driving privileges, most of these seniors (95 percent) have not had these conversations. (Those who are 85 and older are the seniors most likely to have experienced these conversations.)

Current drivers most often began limiting their driving in their 70s while former drivers report they most often stopped driving at 80 or older, which provides a window of opportunity for friends and family members to at least consider broaching the idea of giving up driving, if needed. 

While those who have received a recommendation from a family member/friend to stop driving acknowledge it was an emotional and challenging conversation, the majority say it was pleasant and agreeable.

Still, the idea of having to give up driving completely typically sparks a range of emotions in senior drivers – everything from anger to anxiety and loneliness. The emotions current drivers most often feel when asked to think about giving up driving are frustration, helplessness and depression. 

Nearly half of the former drivers say that, all things considered, giving up driving has made no impact on their life. However, while their stress and anxiety around driving has been reduced, the emotion most often felt – now that they’re not driving – reportedly is relief.

Roughly three in 10 say they don’t miss driving (though 65 percent wish they could still drive). As a whole, friends and family are likely going to be the key resource that senior drivers most rely on if they’re not able to drive. Although current drivers don’t want to have to rely on family and friends to get around, this is the transportation option they say they most frequently have access to and actually use. 

Similarly, giving up driving has made former drivers more reliant on family and friends, who have become their primary sources of transportation. For more information and resources, visit


Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.