Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep driving well into your golden years and preserve your mobility?
Automated safety features in newer cars like self-parking and lane change alerts already go a long way to make driving safer for everyone, especially older adults with slower reaction times.
The advancement of self-driving car technology is being tipped to further help seniors retain their independence, with companies like Google, GM, and Tesla all rolling out their own versions of self-driving cars.
But while it’s easy to tout the advantages that autonomous driving will bring to the elderly, they may not be a good fit for all seniors.
Fiona Lee from the senior’s online info resource, Caring.com, has provided behindthewheel.com.au with a look at the possible benefits, and potential issues around seniors and autonomous cars.
Benefits of Self-Driving Cars for Seniors
Let’s discuss benefits first. According to a 2015 study by Caring.com, in the U.S., approximately 14 million accidents in 2014 were caused by drivers aged 65 and over.
And a 2015 study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) reported that seniors who stopped driving were twice as likely to experience depression.
In light of these stats, self-driving cars are certainly a great solution to help older adults retain their independence while staying safe on the road.
Self-driving technology can reduce the burden on family caregivers as well.
60% of caregivers in a 2016 Caring.com survey reported that they had to make changes to their work schedule to accommodate caregiving duties, such as driving loved ones to doctor appointments.
Helping older adults stay mobile for longer could mean less stress for family caregivers and allow them to stay in the workforce longer.
Risks to Keep in Mind
While there are clear benefits, driverless car technology may not be suitable for all older adults.
Completely automated cars are still some years away, and in the meantime drivers may still find themselves in situations where they should take control of a self-driving car.
That can be an obstacle for older adults who aren’t physically able to do so.
“What concerns me is someone with dementia having access to a driverless car,” notes Jennifer Fitzpatrick, a gerontologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University.
“That can be a major problem.”
And for family caregivers who want to know where their loved ones are, the idea of a senior using self-driving cars to get around may actually cause some anxiety.
It’s a good idea for caregivers to talk regularly with their loved ones about the subject of driving to help seniors prepare emotionally for the day they need to let the keys go.
Many seniors can already benefit from self-driving cars today and the rapid pace of innovation will likely solve existing risks and make these vehicles a great solution for all seniors in the near future.