Getting Around as You Get Older

Magic Medical

Older people who are able to maintain connections to family, friends and the broader community are more likely to enjoy the benefits of aging in place. However, we often associate our ability to live independently with our ability to drive.

Chances are the physical and sensory skills you need to be a good driver are likely to decline as you age, and, as a result, you may have already changed some of your driving habits. For example, you no longer like driving…

  • after dark because your night vision has worsened
  • on the freeway because your reaction time is slower
  • while making a left turn because you can’t always judge the distance between oncoming cars

It’s a good idea to evaluate and strengthen your driving skills, even though you still consider yourself a good driver.  Check in periodically with family and friends to see if they have any concerns about your driving safety; they may notice changes you might have missed.  Get regular eye exams and health check-ups to confirm that you have no underlying conditions that could impair your ability to drive. Have your driving skills evaluated by a driving specialist and take a refresher driving course if needed.

You may be fortunate to have a personal transportation support network that includes friends, family, co-workers and others who are willing to provide you with a ride to the doctor, grocery store or other destinations.

However, additional transportation options may be available to enable you to travel with independence and choice.

  • Public transit (operates on a regular schedule and offers specific routes)
  • Specialized transportation or paratransit (a service for older adults and people with disabilities who are unable to use public transit)
  • Volunteer transportation (one-on-one rides in a volunteer’s vehicle that can be reserved on demand) • Transportation with assistance (riders receive additional support at pick-up and destination)
  • Private-pay transportation (services such as taxis, Uber and Lyft are available on demand)

You may have never, or rarely, taken public transit or other local transportation services, so it’s no wonder you may be intimidated by the prospect of riding a bus or subway. Travel training programs, aimed at teaching older adults and people with disabilities how to take public transportation independently, are becoming increasingly available.

  • Check with your public transit agency to see if there’s a travel training course available.
  • Meet with a mobility counselor or other staff from your local Area Agency on Aging to get details on the training programs offered in your community.
  • Ask a family member, friend or neighbor to ride along with you on your first public transit outing to increase your level of confidence.