Seniors could be using driverless cars in the future

Google, GM, Ford, Tesla, and BMW are all researching and testing automated car technology.

While the prospect of robotic cars may be anxiety-provoking to some, a car that drives itself at the push of a button could mean more freedom and mobility for older adults

The decision to stop driving can have an enormous impact on those who live in suburban or rural areas. Jennifer FitzPatrick, a gerontologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University, whose book, Cruising through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring for Your Loved One, sees driving cessation as a source of anger and frustration.

“It’s the idea that they have to depend on someone and they lose their privacy,” FitzPatrick says. A study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that seniors who stopped driving were twice as likely to experience depression. Among family caregivers, the dependency created by driving retirement adds added work and stress.

AARP says that 80 percent of the 45 million adults aged 65 and older in the U.S. live in car-dependent communities. Many advocates of driverless car technology think that when they are mobile longer, it means a better quality of life for them and for caregivers.

FitzPatrick sees the advent of driverless cars as incredibly exciting. And she says older adults who still drive are more cautious. They stay closer to home and only drive during the daytime.