One future concept I hope comes soon is self-driving cars

One concept for self-driving cars.
A concept for self-driving cars. Note, this is totally impractical for older people. The seats are too low. Old people need seats they can sit on, without having to drop into, and they want to be able to twist, and not have to lift their feet too high. I liked the computer idea, thought that on her shopping trips Mum might like to check Facebook (she was a big Facebook user), but after shopping she was always tired, so a seat that reclined would probably be better. She could snooze all the way home.

A group of us were sitting around this morning, discussing our parents getting old, some of the problems that caused, and how we can alleviate them.

Loneliness is one problem.

Many of our parents had lost a partner, lost many of their close friends. Or their friends have moved away. For us, a friend moving, say, two suburbs away isn’t much, but when you have limited mobility it becomes a major problem.

Many older people lack mobility. They can’t walk as far, or as fast, due to problems with hips or knees or their back. Many of them can’t drive any more due to vision problems.

Lack of mobility makes you housebound. It becomes harder to go out and do things, which makes it harder to talk to people, which in turn ends up making you lonelier. It becomes a vicious circle.

This is not just old people, by the way. It impacts everyone. It just happens that we were discussing old people, our experiences, and some of the problems.

A lot of the things we could do to make lives better for our elderly parents took place during working hours. Exercise classes, craft sessions, friends getting together. Which we couldn’t get to, because we were working.

We talked about how not being able to give our parents their freedom made us feel helpless.

Giving up your job, your life, to look after a parent is sometimes the only thing you can do. But most of the time, that’s not optimal. There’s the money aspect, of course, but there’s also the dignity, the freedom for the older person. They don’t want to be reliant on you. (Or our parents didn’t, anyway.) They want their own life, but they want it to be happy and fulfilled.

They certainly don’t want to have to rely on someone else.

It’s one reason I can’t wait for self-driving cars.

Seven years before Mum died she lived in a small country town which had a post-office/shop and that was it. Even the local pub, which used to be open Friday and Saturday nights, had closed down. She drove 100 kilometres for groceries, and she was losing her sight. So we moved her across the state (a move of 400km) to be closer to her family.

If we’d had self-driving cars, she could have stayed in her own home longer.

Mum left most of her friends behind when she moved, and while her new town had family, with her limited visibility it was still hard to go out and do things on her own. She had to wait until one of her children was available to take her shopping. There were exercise sessions she was encouraged to go to, but she had to take a taxi to get there. She couldn’t go to places like craft classes, because most of them were in working hours.

She was tied to our schedule, not her own.

If we’d had self-driving cars she could have gone where she wanted to, when she wanted to. It would have given her back mobility, which would have given her back her freedom.

That’s no small thing.

(Mum moved into an aged care facility six months before she died. She loved it. There were people around to talk to. They ran classes. They had concerts, and excursions. She could do things again.)

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6 comments

  1. Mary Anne in Kentucky - Reply

    I’m 65. I really hope self-driving car technology speeds up because I want to live in the country when I’m old. (I want to live in the country now, but after six years in the city I still love this job–sometimes–and I just can’t stand to drive 45 miles to work, and I can’t afford to retire any time soon.) In fact I WILL live in the country again whether I can drive myself or not, but when I get very old and frail not having a self-driving car will be quite restrictive.

  2. Karen - Reply

    Yes, to everything you say. (Even the can’t afford to retire soon. :-))

    Also, driving from the city to the country isn’t much fun, as you have to get out of the city first.

  3. Mike - Reply

    I work in the automotive industry, I love cars and I’ a control freak. I love to drive and I like being in control of the car so whilst the safety aspects are a good thing I really don’t want to give up the fun of driving.

    • Mary Anne in Kentucky - Reply

      I, too, am a control freak. It’s why I buy new cars so I can get a manual transmission. I don’t want the engine making up its own mind when to shift. But a review of my family history tells me that I’m going to outlive my ability to drive; I’d rather have the machine in control than rely on friends and kindly do-gooders.

      • Karen - Reply

        Not me. If a car’s not an automatic, I’m not touching it.

        Definitely, as we age though, we need alternatives. We saw how much freedom the loss of the car took away from our mother.

    • Karen - Reply

      What about a something like the grid in Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End. If you’re on the grid (effectively in the city), your car drives you, and you don’t need a license until you go off the grid.

      Then you get the benefits of both worlds. Safety in heavily populated areas, but a good drive when you get out. (And theoretically, because the traffic is flowing, it shouldn’t take you long to get out of the city, either.)

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