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Fighting life's isolation after driving

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  December 21, 2009 05:59 PM

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(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

At its core, driving isn't about carving S-turns on an alpine pass or beating a Mustang's rear wheels into clouds of smoke. Nor is it about environmental consciousness. It's about mobility.

Anyone suffering from a physical handicap knows how discomforting and demeaning it can be to rely on other people to get around. Public transportation only connects so many places, livery and taxi services are pricey, and bumming rides deadens the freedom of self-sufficiency. For able-bodied seniors who've stopped driving - either by choice or by force - it's the same terrible feeling. How am I going to get out of the house and move?

Following up on a slew of deadly crashes involving elderly drivers in Massachusetts this year, the Globe ran a story Monday on the correlation of driving and overall health. The not-too-surprising results? Seniors who stop driving are more likely to enter depression or assisted long-term care.

Walking, as simple as it seems, is often more trouble than it's worth for older adults used to getting behind the wheel, says Elinor Ginzler of the AARP.

“After people stop driving, the first thing they do is become a passenger in someone else’s car, and after being a passenger, the next most prevalent way for people to get where they want to go is to walk,’’ Ginzler said. “But the reality is, the walking environment is often a very hostile one.’’

One low-cost solution, the Globe reports, may be a volunteer driving network that offers seniors a number of rides equal in value to the cars they trade in.

“We have done about 280,000 rides nationally,’’ said Katherine Freund, who started the Independent Transportation Network in Maine in 1995, seven years after her 3-year-old son was seriously injured by an elderly driver.

Read more about the plan and what senior drivers have to say in Kay Lazar's story.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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