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Seniors Stuck After Giving Up Driving, Study Finds

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Toronto Star, September 21, 2002.

Seniors are outliving their ability to drive, according to a new study.

"Hundreds of thousands of older people quit driving each year and must turn to alternative transportation",says Dan Foley, a biostatistician at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., and lead author of the study.

"I don't think sufficient attention has been paid to the transition from driver to non-driver in the aging population."

The aging of the boomers and an increase in the number of female drivers is expected to yield a growing population of seniors living longer than they hold a driver's licence.

Foley and his colleagues found that the largest number of older drivers giving up the privilege did so around age 85, which suggests that the "oldest old" may be most in need of transportation help.

Dr. Arun Karlamangla, a geriatrician at the University of California, Los Angeles, says it's often difficult for non-driving seniors to arrange transportation to appointments. Many of his patients arrange rides through a local organization, but often wait a couple of hours for the ride back home. Others rely on relatives or pay for assistance.

"This is going to become an issue, more among the people who are less well off," he says.

In the study, the researchers analyzed data gathered in 1993 and 1995 about a sample of Americans age 70 and older, along with follow-up data on 4,996 male and female drivers with access to a car. Some 88 percent of men and 70 percent of women were driving in their early 70s. For those 85 an older, the driving rate fell to 55 percent for men and 22 percent for women.

Seniors may stop driving because of poor vision, memory impairment or mobility problems. The so-called driving expectancy for an older adult fell short of overall life expectancy. Men and women able to drive at ages 70 to 74 were expected to keep on driving 11 more years. But the men statistically were expected to live an additional 17 years, and the women 21 years.

Copyright 2002, the Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with permission.