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When Planning for Retirement, Consider Transportation

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I have heard that failing to plan is planning to fail. And yet it turns out that a large proportion of affluent American seniors make no real effort to think about how or when they will stop driving. The problem with aging is that you always think you will be able to decide these things at the very last second possible... but guess what, when you're in your 80's and have built an entire lifestyle based on driving, you're maybe not going to be in a great position to decide that maybe you're past it.

By the time I retire, there will be self-driving cars. Bingo, problem solved!

I keep hearing from friends that 10 years from now this won't be a problem, once self-driving cars are mainstream.

What are the chances that things won't turn out the way we think they will?

Planning is not possible without reasonable assumptions about the future. Because if I'm about to start doing cardio:

I personally started trying to do all my short trips by bicycle starting a few years ago, and I think that will become my primary mode of transportation for a long time. I live in a community where I can get almost everything I need for daily life within 5 miles round trip, and I enjoy the exercise. Self-driving cars will be great but you don't get any exercise in them, and after reading a billion PandaWhale articles it seems like consistent exercise is one of the biggest markers for a happy life.

You're right. Self-driving cars will never replace bicycles.

Hopefully self-driving cars will help people when we need them, but not be the main mode of transport.

Self-driving cars don't really address the essential issue, which is: who decides when a senior is not capable of safely driving any more, and what is the cutoff point? Let me put a couple of anecdotes out there:

* A friend of mine got into a very low-speed accident in a parking lot with a 90+ year old man WHO IS LEGALLY BLIND and was driving erratically because he could not see the parking space. The guy basically begged my friend not to report the accident to the police... and then when the time for the report to be filed was past, filed an insurance claim on a paint issue that could not be seen by the naked eye.

* An 80+ year old man who was BLIND IN ONE EYE was stopped from driving after repeatedly losing his way on routes he had driven dozens or hundreds of times throughout his adult life. Only then it was determined that he was suffering from advanced dementia.

* An 85+ year old man who was WEARING A NECK BRACE was allowed to renew his license with nothing more than a new photograph. Within 2 months he died in hospice.

Although all of these acquaintances were affluent, intelligent, loved and well cared-for... they all enjoyed driving and their ENTIRE independent lifestyles were 100% contingent upon them driving. They MIGHT have accepted self-driving cars... but you know what? When you are 80+ years old, have dementia and are thrifty, the odds are pretty good that you won't buy an expensive new thing. So who decides and when?

Elder care counselors agree with you:  one of the most difficult decisions families have to make is when to take the keys from grandpa.  The DMV could help with a mandatory cut-off at 80, and more stringent testing from 70-80, so that individuals, families and communities can assume a plan WILL be needed.  

I'm lucky because my parents voluntarily moved to a retirement town a while ago, where the norm is to gradually step down from bigger homes to smaller, and from full independence to more care, and from cars to golf carts. The cool thing is that there seems to be very little shame or social problems involved in saying, "I gave up driving, I just ride the golf cart now". However, it's a VERY self-selected population of people who were comfortable uprooting themselves pre-emptively from their long-time homes.

I for one can't wait for the day when I don't have to drive anymore.

But I hear what you're saying that I'm unusual.

Although turning in my car for a golf cart sounds like SO MUCH FUN!!

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