Older Victorians need support to transition to a non-driving lifestyle

With an ageing Victorian population a comprehensive study by RACV has found there’s a growing need for better support and improved transport options and services for older people as they transition to a non-driving lifestyle.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare[1]  shows the number of people aged 65 and over, has more than tripled over fifty years. Based on population projections by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there will be 9.6 million people aged 65 and over and almost 2 million people aged 85 and over, by 2064[2].

RACV Manager Road User Behaviour, Melinda Spiteri said the Mobility Beyond Driving study was an important one that had produced some surprising results.

“We found the transition to non-driving was not always a negative experience, which was particularly relevant for people who were able to make the decision themselves. Maintaining control over the decision helped them to retain their dignity and self-esteem.”

The research also found that the greatest time for dissatisfaction is immediately following ceasing driving, and that the anticipated issues associated with no longer driving are often greater than the real issues faced by former drivers. Two-thirds of older people who had stopped driving said there were a number of key benefits to ceasing driving.

“Some older people, as well as their families and carers found they had reduced stress and anxiety once the decision was made to give up driving and others embraced the opportunity to explore new ways of travelling”.

Ms Spiteri said the study involved 30 one-on-one interviews as well as a survey of over 300  older drivers, older former drivers and carers of older people who had ceased driving.

While it is beneficial for people to make the decision to stop driving themselves, sometimes this is not possible and driving cessation happens more abruptly. This highlights the importance of providing support and advice during the transitional phase to non-driving.

“What also came up in this study was that good planning and awareness of transport alternatives appears to be crucial factors in avoiding negative impacts of not driving.

Ms Spiteri said nearly all current and former drivers surveyed believed that their transport needs were fully or partially met, but there were still some key concerns.

“Negative impacts were greatest among those living in rural areas and living alone who had  less access to alternative transport. For those in city locations the key concerns were about the limited availability of accessible bus services, problems with train and bus connections and taxi services.

“What this study tells us is that we have an opportunity to further assist older people as they transition to non-driving. We are an ageing population and as a community we have an obligation to provide reliable efficient and effective mobility across all forms of transport.

To help our members and all Victorians stay active and informed about whatever form of transport they choose to use, RACV has a Transport Options for Seniors guide, which is designed to help older Victorians become informed about how to use the mobility services available in order to maintain their independence.

RACV’s guide Transport Options for Seniors offers practical advice on how to get around using the train, tram, bus, taxi or bike as well as other mobility information.

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics

Written by RACV
October 28, 2016