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Nine out of 10 drivers aged 70 and above say they would suffer a loss of independence if they were no longer able to drive.

Meanwhile, almost three in five (57%) say they wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with family and friends and almost half (44%) say they would feel they had lost part of their identity if they could no longer drive.

These figures are from a new survey commissioned by older people’s charity Independent Age, which has produced a new and free advice guide: “Behind the Wheel: Tips for safe and confident driving in later life”. Offering helpful guidance to some of the nation’s oldest drivers, the new guide was created in partnership with RDF Television, which produced the recent ITV series “100-Year-Old Driving School”.

The Independent Age survey of older drivers found the negative emotional effects of not being able to drive became even starker when comparing older people in rural areas – where public transport alternatives are scarce ­– with those living in densely populated regions. Those in rural areas were 14% more likely to feel lonely and isolated, 9% more likely to suffer a loss of identity and 17% more likely to feel their health and wellbeing would suffer.

 Other key findings from the poll of 2,003 drivers aged 70 and over in the UK found:

  • The top three things that older drivers use their cars for are: shopping (96%), visiting family and friends (90%) and visiting the GP or accessing other health services (72%).
  • A significant number of older drivers are relied on by other people: over a quarter (27%) of older drivers use their car for caring responsibilities such as driving friends or family to hospital visits or helping with shopping, and more than one in five (22%) drive grandchildren to and from school or extra-curricular activities.
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) would feel reluctant to ask friends or family for lifts if they were no longer able to drive and one in 20 (5%) say they don’t have any friends or family they could ask for a lift.
  • Nine in 10 (90%) older drivers say having a car is important to them because they like the freedom of being able to go where they want, when they want.

There are almost five million people over the age of 70 who hold driving licences in the UK, with more than 100,000 of those over the age of 90. When a driver reaches 70, they are required to renew their licence every three years by the DVLA.

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: “For many older people, being able to drive means so much more than just being able to get out and about. Whether it’s keeping in touch with family and friends or continuing to do their shopping, driving can help maintain a sense of independence and identity too.

“There are many benefits to continuing to drive into older age and, as long as they remain safe, older people should be able to continue driving for as long as they want to. It’s also vital that people who are no longer able to drive have access to information on the various options available for getting around without a car. Older people and their families who want to find more about driving in later life can order our free guide, Behind the Wheel.”

You can download the free guide (pictured above) from the Independent Age website or order a free copy by filling in a form on the website or calling the free helpline on 0800 319 6789. It is full of tips to help support older drivers, and provides information on alternatives if they decide to stop driving.

“Behind the Wheel” provides information on topics such as staying safe and boosting confidence while driving, the law relating to older drivers and driving with medical conditions, and when to think about stopping driving.

Independent Age produces a range of helpful and information-packed leaflets and guides on many issues affecting older people, which can be accessed via the website (www.independentage.org) or by calling the helpline number above.

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