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Lisa Rapaport in The Globe and Mail on Thursday discusses an issue close to seniors-what happens when their car keys are taken away.  A new study suggests that losing the car keys creates social isolation for seniors. In cities and places where we are working to enhance walkability and increase cycling ridership, there is a generation of people who if they could, drove everywhere. And that generation is in trouble-Statistics Canada estimates that 25 per cent of senior citizens on the road suffer from some kind of dementia.  As more of the Baby Boomers become seniors, I am sure that there will be more stringent driver testing, and perhaps even temporary 24 hour licenses.

Researchers at Rutgers University found that driver’s “transportation mobility is often crucial for continued social participation” noting that seniors that are socially engaged have better health, lower mortality risk, and lower levels of depression and dementia. Frequent drivers were three times as likely to visit friends and family, and engage in outings, and twice as likely to attend religious services and organized group activities.

Driverless car technology is aiming at these seniors. But there will be many seniors who will be unwilling to adapt to driverless technology, or be unable to afford it. There is also a lack of studies on seniors and how they transition  from car ownership to transit and other forms of active transportation. We need this research.

The study does not identify whether the respondents were from urban or suburban environments, but does provide a wake up call for ensuring that our transit, cycle ways and our sidewalks are made for those folks aged  8 years to 100 years, not just to 80.