Providing reliable, safe and convenient transport options for our older Western Australians is an issue that should concern everyone.

The ability to own and drive a car is often taken for granted. The convenience of having a car is not always appreciated until it is unavailable, particularly in times of urgent need.

Without a car we must find suitable alternatives. We may be forced to rely on others, and if family or friends are unavailable, we may have to miss out on certain activities altogether.

RAC’s Ageing and Driving Survey of 1,200 65 to 90-year-olds and beyond found as people age, they typically have fewer people around them to depend on and fewer transport options. This can lead to the car being their main form of mobility and a source of independence.

The survey found this lack of reliable and safe transport options means many older motorists feel they have little choice but to drive in order to maintain their independence and avoid putting pressure on family and friends.

Although the private car remains the primary mode of transport for older drivers, the survey also found car usage reduced with increasing age. Around 50 per cent of drivers aged 85 years and over drive less than 5,000km per year, and 45 per cent of drivers aged over 90 choose to drive less than 3,000km per year.

Public transport is not necessarily a readily available or convenient alternative. The survey also found people’s confidence in using public transport dropped as they aged. Public transport was used more widely by 65 to 69-year-olds, at two to three times per week, compared with 82 per cent of those aged 85 and over using it never or less than once a month.

Western Australia is experiencing a demographic shift. As a community, we are living longer and getting older. By 2036, there will be more than three times the number of people aged over 85 than there are currently. This is an issue that is not going to resolve itself any time soon.

As a state, we must develop an agreed plan for how we will meet these challenges. This comes from greater investment in a range of transport options specifically catering to the older demographic.

Although the car is an important form of mobility, even without access to a private vehicle, older people should be able to remain mobile and connected to their community.

Esme Bowen

RAC President