Reality: Life Without A Car
In addition to health, our own expectations influence how early we need to consider mobility and transportation as we age. The higher and more specific your expectations are for future activities and lifestyle, the more likely that early planning will help you meet your goals.
If you are relocating, making a major lifestyle change, have major changes in health or relationships, are retiring, or your current support system is likely to change, you may want to consider the impact. Think about how these changes could impact your ability to stay active as you get older even if you don’t drive. Planning for future lifestyle choices, including transportation, likely involves others and they should be involved as early as possible in your decisions too.
You cannot be in total control of your health, daily living or other circumstances. However, choosing to plan and act upon what you can control, can help sustain your driving ability and keep you driving longer.
As a driver, you are responsible for three important aspects of your driving safety:
- Your fitness and readiness to drive and how you act on your current ability
- Action regarding your car’s appropriateness, maintenance and safety
- Decisions about when and where you drive
Most people outlive their ability to safely drive by a minimum of six to ten years. Generally, people who take the time to plan for driving cessation have more positive experiences. Being forced to stop driving by external factors, such as health or collisions, is much more difficult than choosing when and how we want to stop. The more we realistically plan for the future and are in control of our lives, the easier the transition can be. Early planning may also allow for a more relaxed and positive approach to addressing issues rather than a quickly imposed plan.
Goals and Lifestyle
Just like planning for your future economic wellbeing, driving and mobility play an important role in helping you lead the kind of life you envision. Think about how driving links to your life goals. Having enough money to buy a motorhome or a rural recreational property means nothing if you cannot enjoy your purchases because of an inability to drive.
You don’t have to give up your lifestyle because you give up driving, but you do need to consider how you will deal with transportation and remain mobile. While these issues may seem a long way into the future, thinking about them now will help you create the kind of life you hope for.
Where you live is one of the most critical lifestyle decisions you will make and impacts many other aspects of your life. This is true as you consider your future as a possible non-driver. Is your residence handy to the services you require? Considering grocery and drug stores, medical, financial and business appointments, work or volunteer activities, recreation and social opportunities, cultural activities, and religious services may be a part of building a comfortable life, free of transportation worries.
Consider the following questions:
- Will your current or future housing accommodate these needs with sustainable and realistic transportation options?
- How will your future accommodation choices change as you age?
- Where are your family and your friends? How will their lives likely change in future? Will that affect you? How do these changes impact available transportation and your mobility?
- If you travel or have recreational property, how do these same issues impact those locations and transportation options?
- What are the goals you want to achieve in later life? Use the following worksheet to help identify your future goals and related plans.
See Goals and Lifestyle PDF worksheet provided separately.
Now that you’ve identified some of your future goals and plans, think about how your goals, lifestyle, day to day needs and ongoing activities relate to being a driver and having a vehicle. How can you plan for a positive future while realistically planning for you changing driving ability and access to transportation in future?
What Needs does Driving Fulfill for You?
For many people, driving means freedom and independence. For some people driving a particular vehicle is a symbol of success or prestige. Maybe your vehicle is a reflection of your identity and values – who you are. Driving may provide you with a sense of purpose, communicating your roles and responsibilities in family and community. It may be a connection to what you consider “normal” life.
Think about what being able to drive means for you. What needs does driving and owning a vehicle fulfill for you? How important are they to you as you get older? Are there other ways to fulfill those needs?
Basic, Social and Aesthetic Needs
While many non-driving individuals and their families plan for things like getting groceries or attending medical appointments, we might forget about the other important things that driving permits. These include the opportunity to socialize, contribute to family and community, enjoy nature, and the option of choice, spontaneity, and discretionary activity.
Musselwhite and Haddad developed a three tier model of driver needs for older people that includes basic needs, social needs and aesthetic needs. Basic means different things to different people and include medical appointments, shopping for groceries, etc. Social needs include those relating to our friends and family, volunteering, leisure and recreational activities. Aesthetic needs include those that relate to our need for new and pleasing experiences such as travel, nature, music, etc.
Not meeting our needs for social and aesthetic experiences, will leave us unfulfilled and ultimately unsatisfied with our “new” non-driving life. Be sure to consider how these activities fit into your driving decisions.
What are some of your basic, social and aesthetic needs and how is driving related to them? How can you ensure your needs are met as a non-driver or with driving reductions or conditions? Most people are more successful in building a number of “driving support” relationships among a variety of alternate transportation sources to achieve their goals.
Use this worksheet to consider what is important to you and how you might plan to continue to do these things as a non-driver.