Should Doctors Decide When a Patient Is Too Old to Drive?

Gregory A. Hood, MD


January 23, 2019

In This Article

The Option of Alternative Transportation

Alternative transportation should be considered. In most urban areas, buses and trains abound, but seniors may not use them for a number of reasons, including concerns over safety and getting confused or lost on routes.

Some of these challenges can be overcome by family members riding with the senior on the routes a few times. Hospitals, senior centers, mass-transit operators, adult daycares, and other organizations may offer van services to help with appointments, shopping, and other needs, and local religious organizations may have volunteers who are able to drive seniors.

Using Uber Can Help Ease Seniors' Travel Woes

Seniors who give up driving usually have to depend on family members, friends, or church members to get around, but they often don't ask for help because they don't want to be a burden. Taking this path leads to feelings of isolation, which may compound or lead to depression—both of which can make physical and psychological health conditions worse.

Taxi services also have been historically underutilized because of the time involved in calling and waiting, as well as the high cost. However, with the introduction of services such as Uber and similar companies, a new alternative is available.

The steadily depreciating value of a loved one's car may be lowered further by dents and dings, as well as the costs of insurance, maintenance, gasoline, wipers, etc. One could get rid of a car and use that money for years of Uber trips.[7] Of course, some people don't wish to use Uber for various reasons, such as safety concerns.

Today's Seniors Are Tech Savvy

Many seniors find using smartphones to be challenging when first introduced to them, but they are becoming increasingly tech savvy and are quick learners. In fact, many seniors are learning how to access the Uber app and know how to call the driver after making a ride request. Such phone contact can increase the comfort a senior has with the process, at least the first few times.

In an article in Forbes, Uber driver Martha Voorhees noted that "40% of my clients are seniors. They have smart phones, their grandchildren have loaded the app and they were taught how to use it. Then from there, they teach others how to use it. It's quite viral in the senior group."[7]

This service has advantages over traditional transport. For starters, the schedule is completely flexible—a necessity given the unpredictability of when a medical visit will end. Also, the driver is not kept waiting during the errand or appointment. Seniors can activate the app when they are ready to be picked up. Uber has released an instructional video on You Tube.


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