Uber and Lyft: Taking Seniors to New Places

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Introduction

When thinking of older adults, various stereotypes typically come to mind, such as worsening or lacking cognitive abilities that can severely affect a senior’s driving capabilities.  There is a need for a transportation service for older adults to get around without jeopardizing their physical interactions and physical activity levels.  Lyft and Uber have become one of the most common ways younger adults get around today.  These two applications serve almost as a taxi service but are more efficient and less expensive.  They are a location-based service, and, by the tap of a finger, a personal driver of one’s choosing can be at their door-step.  This source of transportation can be incredibly beneficial to seniors with worsening cognitive abilities that led to or resulted from driving cessation.  They also may be more susceptible to stereotype threat, which can severely affect one’s driving, sometimes more than their actual cognitive issues.  Between these two applications, older adults could greatly benefit from the services, allowing them to effectively travel and maintain their independence, despite their health conditions.

Driving cessation in older adults can have negative consequences and severe effects on an adult, such as decreased social interaction and functioning, elevated depressive symptoms, a decline in physical functioning, and an increased risk of mortality (Choi, Lohman, & Mezuk, 2014).  Moreover, driving cessation is heavily associated with reduced out-of-home activity levels and a smaller network of friends, which may result in an overall decrease in social and physical activities that protect against cognitive decline (Choi, Lohman, & Mezuk, 2014).  Knowledge and accessibility of Uber and Lyft to older adults will give them the ability to carry out their daily routines and social activities in a much safer fashion for them and everyone else on the road.

First Research Study

In a study executed by Choi, Lohman, and Mezuk (2014), the examination of driving mobility in relation to cognitive decline took place over a ten-year period.  The study included participants ages 65 and over in 1998 and without any cognitive impairments or memory- related diseases.  The data was collected across six different waves; every two years throughout the length of the study, self- assessments of the individual participants were reported.

After the data collection, the use of the three, longitudinal mixed-effect models were established to identify the correlation of repeated cognition scores within the individual overtime.  Two of these models were estimated to test the impact of the baseline driving status of the individual in relation to the cognitive trajectories they would face over the 10-year period.  The third model intended to estimate whether driving cessation resulted in accelerated cognitive decline (Choi, Lohman, & Mezuk, 2014).  This study indicated that driving cessation does, in fact, lead to accelerated cognitive decline in older adults.  As driving is the primary source of mobility for older adults, persons with constricted life-spaces were more likely to experience rapid cognitive decline than persons with larger life-spaces, confirming a need for an efficient transportation source for older adults (Choi, Lohman, & Mezuk, 2014).

Second Research Study

One study demonstrated the stereotypes surrounding older men and women and how their driving accuracy decreases due to age-stigmas, and this stereotype threat is the biggest contributor to their failure when driving.  This term “stereotype threat” is defined as the event in which an individual is at risk of confirming a stereotype specific to their own group (Lambert et al., 2016).  In a recent study conducted by Hehman and Bugental (2013), the specific responses following the priming of negative and positive implications in younger adults versus older adults were tested.  The older adults who participated in this study were from senior centers and retirement communities, ranging from 62 to 92 years of age.  The participants were given the task of replicating the pictures of two-color designs with blocks, which tested their accuracy and cognition prior to the upcoming experiment.  The experiment then began by framing these individuals on specific cognitive tasks that would traditionally be thought of as age-specific (Hehman & Bugental, 2013).  The older adults then completed the tasks.  These researchers predicted that the outcomes of the older adults would display decreased performance or inability to perform at all.  If the older adult reported that the tasks would be better performed by those of a specific and younger age group, those responses would confirm stereotype threat.

The results indicated that those participants exposed to a negative, age-relevant prime showed deficits in performance when asked to complete a cognitive task, such as driving, which confirms the stereotype.  The belief others were more powerful and possessed control over their life outcomes also resulted in performance deficits.  Therefore, the study suggested that aging adults succumb to the additive effects of an age-relevant threat and being under the perceived control of others. (Hehman & Bugental, 2013).  As stereotypes are more heavily circulated in society, this poses a threat to the health and emotional well-being to the older adult cohort. Having a convenient, accessible source of transportation for older adults eliminates the risk factors they could pose not being in the correct state of mind.

Conclusion

In both research studies, the results indicate that there is a significant effect of age-based stereotypes on the performance of older adults that lead to performance deficits in cognitive functions associated with driving cessation as one ages (Hehman & Bugental, 2013).  Uber and Lyft could benefit our seniors and future generations as they serve to provide the safe, most reliable source of transportation.  This will allow older adults to maintain their social and physical outside the home and remain engaged in their community, decreasing the potential acceleration of cognitive impairments.

References

Choi, M., Lohman, M. C., Mezuk, B. (2014). Trajectories of cognitive decline by driving    mobility: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study. International Journal of          Geriatric Psychiatry, 29, 447-453.

Hehman, J. A., & Bugental, D. B. (2013). ‘Life stage-specific’ variations in performance in response to age stereotypes. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1396-1406.

Lambert, A. E., Watson, J. M., Stefanucci, J. K., Ward, N., Bakdash, J. Z., Strayer, D. L. (2016). Stereotype threat impairs older adult driving. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30, 22-28.

 

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