In the United States, each state has a minimum age for young adults to begin driving; however, there is no maximum age at which an individual cannot drive anymore. This is because every individual ages differently and determining when it is no longer safe to drive can be a complex and difficult topic. Once people have the ability to drive themselves legally, an abundance of independence follows as they can drive to various places of interest such as the grocery store, gym or work. However, as a person ages, they may lose their ability to safely drive a vehicle due to age-related changes that the body undergoes as a person grows old. Under circumstances when young adults are unable to safely operate a vehicle, many of them are using apps like Uber and Curb to safely travel to their desired destination.
These apps can both be downloaded from a mobile app store on any smartphone for free and allow the user to make an account with their credit card information, phone number and email. Upon creating an account, the user can open their app to access a map with their current location, as well as how many drivers are in the area. At this point, the user can enter their destination of choice in addition to what type of car they need depending on how many passengers they are traveling with. Once the user orders the car, the app will continue to update information to inform the user when the driver will arrive. Once the driver has arrived, the user will be notified and can locate the car by viewing the driver’s picture, name and what type of car they are driving. After the user arrives at their location, they will receive an email with their receipt as well as an option to review the driver or leave a tip.
As people age and lose their ability to safely drive a vehicle, these apps are a reasonable alternative that older adults can use to maintain their mobility and independence. These apps can significantly reduce the driving stress of older adults as they develop age-related structural changes affecting their motor, cognitive and sensory functions. Research conducted by Levecq, De Potter and Jamart (2013), aimed to investigate the number of older adults that are abiding by European legal driving standards, which can be quantified through visual acuity over 20/40, and learn more about driving habits of older adults. In this study, there were one thousand participants over 60-years-old who received a free assessment of visual acuity. In addition, these participants participated in questionnaires regarding their demographics, socioeconomic characteristics, ophthalmological examination history, their access to stores, if their family and friends are able to drive them places, if they have noticed an impairment in vision, and lastly, their driving habits. The results of this study indicated 19% of persons were not driving and 51% of persons voluntarily stopped driving due to impaired vision or other reasons. In addition, 10% of participant’s that had a drivers license did not meet the requirements for visual acuity, 30% of participants had access to shops without driving and only 28% of participants could rely on acquaintances for rides. (Levecq et al., 2013)
The results of this study indicate that there are a significant number of older adults who lack access to stores or transportation and who are not driving because of vision impairment. Older adults may not know about these apps if they do not have a smartphone; however, if older adults begin to use these apps, they can maintain their independence and have transportation to the places they need to be without compromising the safety of themselves or others. Also, lack of technology knowledge may present a challenge for older adults to use these apps but once they are downloaded, the instructions are fairly clear about how to make an account. However, almost nothing is risk-free and there may be some limitations to handicapped older adults. Currently, Uber and Curb do not offer rides in vehicles that are handicap friendly, and therefore these apps are unable to serve individuals who use wheel chairs or have other special needs that require more well equipped vehicles.
Other age-related changes that can impair an older persons ability to drive is auditory perception and cognition. Research conducted by Barton, Heath and Lew (2016), tested thirty-five younger and thirty-five older adults on cognitive measures and a detection and direction determination task. In this study, there were seventy participants, thirty-five of them were ages eighteen to thirty and the other thirty-five were ages sixty and older. These participants were cognitively tested using the Pattern Comparison Test, which aims to measure processing speed through determining if patters are similar or different. In addition, these participants completed the Contingency Naming Test as another measure of processing speed. The purpose of this test is to measure selective attention and working memory by presenting different colors and shapes on a stimulus card and observing the participant’s answers and time taken to complete the test. (Barton et al., 2016)
In addition to these cognitive tests, the participants completed a direction determination task to measure potential hearing difficulties of approaching vehicles. The participants listened to the natural sound of approaching vehicles while also hearing distraction noises such as honking, sirens, screeching breaks, etc. The participant’s ability to hear these noises was measured by instructing them to press certain keys based on the clarity of the sound. The results of these tests indicated that the younger participants had a significantly better speed of processing as well as better hearing. (Barton et al., 2016)
This study supports the fact that older adults naturally experience these changes in their hearing and cognitive processing speed and would benefit from using apps like Uber and Curb. These apps may be appealing to older adults because they do not have to focus on driving and can allow someone else to drive them. What may also appeal to older adults is that they do not have to feel dependent on acquaintances to drive them to the store, pharmacy, doctor’s appointments, social events, gym, etc. This app would be more useful compared to ordering a taxi because the payment method requires the user to enter their credit card information only once when they sign up. This can be particularly useful for older adults who encounter challenges when counting money for reasons like rheumatoid arthritis.
In conclusion, the ability to drive is important to maintain one’s independence and mobility. Having reliable, safe transportation allows for opportunities to work, attend social events, run errands, visit friends and family, etc. There comes a point in an older adults life where they have to make a difficult decision to stop driving for their own safety and for the safety of others. While this is a difficult and complex decision to make, it does not mean that an older adult has to give up their mobility and independence, nor do they have to feel like they have to count on acquaintances to drive them. Uber and Curb are convenient, easy to use apps that serve as a beneficial alternative for older adults that are no longer able to drive a vehicle to travel.
Barton, B. K., Heath, G. E., & Lew, R. (2016). Detection and Direction Determination of
Approaching Vehicle Noises Among Older Adults. International Journal of
Aging & Human Development, 82(2/3), 229-250. doi:10.1177/0091415016632348
Levecq, L., Potter, P., & Jamart, J. (2013). Visual acuity and factors influencing
automobile driving status in 1,000 patients age 60 and older. Graefe’s Archive of
Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology, 250(3), 881-887. doi:10.1007/s00417-