Seniors' Driving Cessation

Regional, Urban and Community Development

How may seniors' perceptions hinder their driving cessation? How do such perceptions vary by one's ethnicity and gender

Research Student: Maria Curro

Ethnic Differences: Seniors’ Perceptions Around Driving Cessation  

The Canadian population is aging and seniors are highly reliant on the private automobile for mobility. Older drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident for every kilometer driven, and more likely to succumb to their injuries. Nevertheless, given the central importance of the automobile, many seniors delay or outright avoid the discussion of driving cessation. Seniors’ cessation of driving is associated with increased isolation and depression, lack of freedom, role loss, and the inability to care for oneself or others. Therefore it is imperative to understand how seniors perceive driving cessation in order to ensure their overall well-being in later years and the safety of the wider community.

            The majority of seniors’ driving cessation studies focus on Caucasians. The views of ethnic seniors are left undocumented and unattended to. However, it is essential to understand ethnic seniors because they may have different perceptions regarding driving cessation when compared to Caucasian seniors and their needs, concerns, and challenges surrounding driving cessation may differ from our conventional understanding. It is the premise of this study to document ethnic seniors’ perceptions regarding driving cessation, and determine whether their perceptions differ from those of Caucasians.

             In-depth, one-on-one interviews (1 to 2 hours per interview) were conducted with 351 senior drivers from the South Asian (44), Asian (127), Caribbean/African (59), and Caucasian (121) communities in Toronto and Vancouver and surrounding suburban locations. Seniors were contacted via community centers, senior’s recreational programs and community liaisons. No snowball sampling was used. In total over 400 hours of interviews with seniors were conducted and documented over a period of six months (Aug 2011-Jan 2012). Interviews focused on the role of automobile in one’s life, reasons to cease driving, the decision process of driving cessation, perceptions regarding life following cessation and challenges in meeting one’s mobility needs, and attitudes towards public transit, other mobility alternatives and public policy. Thematic analysis method was used to code the interview results and 14 dominant and reoccurring themes (including 43 sub-topics) emerged from the analysis.

             Results demonstrate that ethnic seniors indeed perceive driving cessation differently from Caucasian seniors in many aspects. The greatest differences lie in their perceptions regarding reasons to cease driving, the decision process, public policies on the mobility of seniors, and the role of public transit in facilitating mobility following cessation. For instance, Caucasian seniors note that health-related factors account for the sole reason to no longer drive, whereby South Asian seniors perceive insufficient finances to maintain the automobile to be the primary reason. Asian seniors believe that one’s family physician has a role in advising an older adult to cease driving, while Caucasian and Caribbean/African seniors perceive that only they themselves have the right to make this decision. Caribbean/African seniors perceive that it is the role of the government to provide financial assistance to older adults to ensure that they are able to afford the automobile, while Caucasian and South Asian seniors perceive that the government should play no role in this.

            Driving cessation poses distinct challenges to seniors of various ethnicities, which has not been well understood or addressed by transportation authorities or public health agencies. This work aims to bring to light the importance of addressing such challenges to ensure the well-being of ethnic seniors and recommend ways in which transportation authorities and public health agencies may address the mobility needs of ethnic seniors in a more culturally appropriate manner.

Senir's Gendered Perception of Driving Cessation

Ontario is home to about 40% of Canada's seniors (65 and over). It is estimated that by 2041, a quarter of Ontario's population will be older than 65. With a rapidly aging population, combined with their diminishing physical abilities to safely operate an automobile, a more in-depth understanding of seniors' relationship with driving cessation is needed. The purpose of the study is two-fold: to examine seniors' perceptions that may hinder driving cessation, and to assess how such perceptions are influenced by one's gender. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 seniors in Ontario differing in residential location, living arrangements, licensing status and gender. Anova was used to test the statistical significance of the gender difference. Senior men and women's perceptions on driving cessation differ as a whole and within specific issues. During our interviews, three themes emerged demonstrating gender's impact on seniors' perceptions: general perceptions on driving cessation, perceptions that may hinder driving cessation and solutions offered. Results demonstrated that while all seniors interviewed expressed negative feelings towards becoming a retired driver, gender differences were evident. Perceptions towards personal independence and dependence on others, public transportation, car pride, driving rights, and self-assessment of personal health and safety were found to be significantly influenced by gender. It is recommended that a greater focus is placed on understanding seniors' perceptions of driving cessation and that policy makers take into account gendered perceptions when designing transportation policy and educational driving cessation programs.