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Older drivers face choice between safety and mobility

The generation that gave birth to suburbia and the two-car garage is reaching the age at which driving, for many, no longer seems like such a swell option. As Americans grow older — one in five will be 65 or older by 2030 — many are finding that the world that lured them away from city life is losing some of its appeal.

“The concern is that when they no longer can drive, they will find themselves trapped in their homes in suburban neighborhoods where there are no sidewalks or, if there are sidewalks, there’s no place to walk to,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Trapped, indeed, said Schaaf, who recalled the frustration of a 90-year-old friend when she had to give up driving.

“Most people go through a period of being unhappy about it,” Schaaf said. “She didn’t like having to do all that scheduling of the taxis and other pickup services.”

Suburbia is where the population is aging fastest. At the dawn of the 21st century, 69 percent of people 65 or older lived in the suburbs. More than 285,000 people in that age group live in the three largest counties surrounding Washington — Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George’s.

And aging baby boomers want to remain in the suburbs where they were raised. Eighty-five percent of people 50 or older told the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) that they plan to live in their current communities for as long as they can.

But for many older people, the AARP said, driving has lost its attraction. More than half of drivers 75 or older avoid driving at night or in bad weather, and almost 40 percent of them stay home when traffic is at its worst, according to recent research.

Washington Post

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