Assessing Individual Differences in Driving Retirement: A Mixed-Methods Approach


Many of us take driving for granted. We learn this complex skill when young, and it can become almost automatic. Changes in health and function that often accompany advancing age affect driving more than you might realize at first thought. Vision loss is a major concern, but conditions like Alzheimer disease are especially worrisome for driving fitness. How can you drive effectively if you can’t remember where you are going? Or even decide what lane to position yourself in? The enterprise of driving involves many stakeholders: state licensing officials, urban planners, transportation providers, police, health professionals, car manufacturers, car dealers, social workers, and the list goes on. You and I are stakeholders, too. We all want older adults to have access to vehicles for safe, personal transportation. Where older drivers are concerned, however, there are times when reduction or outright cessation of driving is the safest approach. Roughly 10% of older drivers may be “unsafe” to some degree due to health or functional compromise. Some benefit from additional training, as provided by the American Association for Retired Persons (see, but others are too impaired to continue behind the wheel. My research focuses on both sides. This article tells the story of how my colleagues and I in St. Louis developed a questionnaire: (a) to raise awareness about mobility loss in aging and (b) to measure individual readiness for change in support of mobility planning. We followed a mixed-methods approach: talking to older adults in focus groups (qualitative) and testing out our impressions through formal questionnaires (quantitative).

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