To Continue, Modify or Relinquish Driving: Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Healthy AgeingUnsworth C.A.a · Wells Y.a · Browning C.b · Thomas S.A.b · Kendig H.c
aFaculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, bFaculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, and cFaculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Lidcombe, Australia
Background: The number and proportion of drivers among people entering later life continues to rise. More information on patterns of driving for older adults is required to improve service provision and traffic planning. Objectives: To map the changes in driving status for a sample of drivers aged 65 years or older over the period 1994–2000, and to identify factors associated with older people continuing, modifying or relinquishing their status as drivers. Methods: The 752 participants were drawn from the Melbourne Longitudinal Studies on Healthy Ageing (MELSHA) program, a longitudinal study of people aged 65 years and older living in the community. Participants were interviewed or contacted for follow-up in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000 on a range of topics including their health, functional independence and driving status. Results: Although the number of recent drivers was smaller as participants died or were admitted to nursing homes over the 6-year data collection period, relatively few participants relinquished driving while remaining in the community. Many drivers reported modifying their driving habits over time, including decisions to restrict their driving to their local area during daylight only. Relationships were explored between driving status and the key variables of age, gender, marital status, instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) independence and self-rated measures of income, health, eyesight and hearing. Multivariate analyses indicated that drivers were more likely to modify their driving habits if they were older, dependent in IADL, and rated their eyesight as poor. Similar factors predicted relinquishing driving, but in addition, women were three times more likely to relinquish driving than men (even when health and disability were taken into account) and people who rated their incomes as ‘comfortable’ were more likely to relinquish driving than those with lower incomes. Conclusions: This study confirmed previous evidence that older drivers self-regulate by modifying their driving behavior as they age. However, since few drivers voluntarily relinquish driving, further research is required to identify ways of supporting older drivers to continue to drive safely.
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