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What is Your Retirement Path?

Will Self-Driving Cars Help Reduce the Loss of Independence?

MusingsAccording to a recent article in The New York Times, "Nearly 16 million people 65 and older live in communities where public transportation is poor or nonexistent. That number is expected to grow rapidly as baby boomers remain outside of cities." The article went on to discuss why self-driving cars may be the answer for such aging Boomers. Joseph Coughlin, the director of the MIT AgeLab, was quoted in the article, saying, “The aging of the population converging with autonomous vehicles might close the coming mobility gap for an aging society.” Coughlin also said that 92 percent of older people want to age in place.

Reading this article got me thinking about the larger issue for aging Boomers: the loss of independence. I lived through the loss of independence with my mother over fifteen years ago. When she broke her hip in her late eighties, her independence became a thing of the past. It also led to a quick decline. Coupled with the onset of dementia, her physical and mental infirmities made it impossible for her to age in place. After trying to maintain her independence in her condominium with the help of home health care aides, I had to make the decision to move her to a nursing home. She died not long after the relocation.

Today, my wife is the primary caretaker for her 93-year old mother. While her mother is in excellent health and lives independently, she can no longer drive. Whether it's shopping, day trips, or short outings, my wife and I take responsibility for the transportation.

Caring for older parents is increasingly common among Boomers, even as they age themselves. It offers a look into our own future as we see first-hand what it would be like to lose our independence. For some of us, aging in place may be a viable option. For others with means, an assisted living facility or continuing care retirement community may be the answer. Today, there's always Uber and Lyft, but tomorrow, it sure would be nice to know that such things as self-driving cars could extend our independence as long as possible.  

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