Driverless cars

Nicholas John talks to David Scott-Malden, Operations Director at Inspired Villages, about the importance of maintaining independence in later life.

Nowadays, we all rely heavily on our cars. How do older people cope when they can no longer drive and are faced with a loss of independence?

I think it’s fair to say that we all take for granted our complete independence when it comes to our cars! We enjoy the freedom to go wherever we want, whenever we want. It’s only occasionally when our car is being serviced or repaired that we are reminded of the limitations imposed by not having a car at our disposal. 

So how would we feel if we were told that we could no longer drive? Because that’s what is likely to happen to us all as we grow older and our health deteriorates. Some of the medical conditions that drivers must declare to the DVLA are dementia, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, insulin-treated diabetes, any chronic neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis, and any condition that affects both eyes, or total loss of sight in one eye. 

For those in their seventies or above, there are other conditions as well, or perhaps just a growing awareness that they are no longer safe on the roads. 

We all rely on having instant access to our own four wheels, don’t we?

We use our cars all the time – to meet friends and relatives, go shopping or to events and functions or simply to get out of the house. But when that’s taken away, it can cause huge problems.

Many older wives become increasingly dependent on their husbands for transport in later life, so if the husband is unable to continue driving this can lead to a couple losing their independence altogether, or to a wife losing her independence if her husband dies. Some older people decide to hang up their driving gloves after an accident or a near-miss.

My grandfather allegedly ran down the man with the red flag in 1898 but drove for nearly 70 years before being kindly asked to stop! So how do you maintain independence if you have to give up your car for medical or other reasons?

I suppose if you’re wealthy enough, you could employ a chauffeur, but most of us have to consider cheaper alternatives, which could include using public transport, taxis or reliance on friends and family. Buses are cheap but services are often limited by routes and times and not always convenient and while taxis are great for short journeys or occasional longer trips, they may not be satisfactory if you live in a village some distance from a town, and the costs can mount up with regular use.

Another alternative may be to move house to a location where you are less dependent on needing transport, or transport is more easily accessible. 

We’ve looked at many of the benefits of living in a Continuing Care Retirement Community in our earlier articles. What solution to this transport problem does Inspired Villages offer its residents?

At an Inspired Village, as well as the other services and top-notch facilities such as restaurants, coffee shops, spas and libraries, we provide chauffeured transport on site. We have looked into these issues very closely and we look to provide a door-to-door service which offers help and assistance every step of the way.

How does it work?

There are two or three vehicles with drivers to transport residents to the shops, or the doctors, or on longer trips to the cinema, the theatre or private appointments. Buses are all well and good until you need to walk the half mile back to the bus stop laden down with bags – our village drivers will not only get you to and from your destination, they’ll help you carry your bags home and even unpack for you!

You’ll be greeted by a familiar face every journey, by someone who takes an interest in you and your family, someone you’ll get to know. 

I can certainly see the attraction in that level of service, but many people will surely want to keep their cars if they are still able to drive safely?

Of course not everyone will want to lose their car, but the costs of taxing and insuring a vehicle, as well as maintenance and the MOT, will make ownership restrictive for some people. Our policy is to offer residents a safe, dependable service that’s flexible and reliable, in small vehicles that travel on a regular basis. 

A people carrier will transport small groups, with a smaller vehicle capable of accommodating wheelchairs available for individual appointments. And we don’t leave residents sitting for half an hour in an empty bus – transport is arranged around the needs of residents rather than on a rigid timetable.

Our policy is transportation with quality and style. And, who knows, we may even be looking at driverless vehicles at some point in the next ten years!

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