Aging & Longevity
When one half of elderly couple
stops driving it impacts both
Having a spouse who still drives does
not remove the consequences of driving cessation for senior citizens
24, 2015 Even if just one member of a senior couple stops driving,
negative consequences result for both the driver and non-driver,
according to a new study from the University of Missouri. It recommends
that the elderly, and their adult children, carefully discuss and plan
for the transition to driving cessation.
The ability to drive can be central
to a person's identity and can be an important expression of
independence. When the elderly become unable to drive, due to age or
deteriorating health, their emotional well-being can decline as a result
of being unable to maintain social relationships or work schedules that
require travel by car.
"Individuals should recognize that
making the decision to stop driving is a major life change that needs to
be taken seriously," said Angela Curl, assistant professor in the School
of Social Work within the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.
"The safety of the driver should be discussed as just one factor among
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Curl added, Any time you recommend
that an individual stop driving, you should talk about alternative
transportation options or, possibly, relocation. If the family wants to
help, it's best to come up with a concrete transportation plan ahead of
time. These are complicated, difficult decisions, and mediation of the
discussion can often be helpful through, for example, a social worker or
Curl found that when one spouse
stopped driving, both spouses were less likely to work or volunteer.
Also, the likelihood that a husband would work or a wife would volunteer
decreased further over time.
"People who are in the process of
making the decision to stop driving often think that their spouses will
compensate for their inability to drive," said Curl. "However, in our
research, we found that having a spouse who can drive does not
completely remove the negative consequences of driving cessation."
The study found that consequences
exist for spouses who stop driving and spouses who take on all the
driving responsibilities for a household.
This could be because individuals
who stop driving have less ability to freely transport themselves, so
spouses who can still drive may spend more time transporting their
partners and have less time available for working or socializing,
according to Curl.
Curl completed the study,
"Productive and Social Engagement Following Driving Cessation: A
Couple-Based Analysis" with fellow MU researchers Christine Proulx,
associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family
Studies, and James Stowe, coordinator of trauma injury prevention and
outreach education at the Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD Trauma Center, as
well as Teresa Cooney of the University of Colorado, Denver. The study
was published in the journal Research on Aging.