The Scottish Government has estimated that almost 18,000 people will be diagnosed with dementia this year.
As a result, many will be told that they can no longer drive. Loneliness is already an issue for Scotland’s elderly population – 200,000 individuals spend half a week or more with no visits or phone calls from anyone.
This, coupled with a diagnosis of dementia, and being forced to give up driving, can have a massive impact on lifestyle, independence and mobility. This can lead to real issues of isolation.
In a bid to help people maintain their independence once forced to hang up their car keys, public transport expert ESP Group, has launched Onwards, a 16-month project to develop practical solutions to keep those living with dementia both mobile and connected to their community.
Thanks to research by sister project Upstream, ESP already recognises the complexity and emotional challenges of the process of retiring from driving, a transition which is particularly heightened for people affected by dementia. Onwards’ mission is to ensure every person has the means to get out into the community.
Supported by the Life Changes Trust, the project will design and deliver financially sustainable, tangible solutions for Scottish people living with dementia who have had to retire from driving – whether this is a car sharing scheme, adjustments to public transport or a community mobility programme. Crucially, these solutions will be co-designed by people living with dementia, drawing on their own direct experiences.
Beth Garner, project director at ESP Group said: “Giving up driving is a widespread challenge, but surprisingly people rarely talk about it. We tend to worry about losing the ability to drive because we face difficulties of maintaining social connections and usual activities. Confidence can be severely affected and individuals may feel uncomfortable asking others for a lift. Despite these challenges, people living with dementia can live well without a car.
“Onwards will pool resources to provide tools and services to make the transition to hanging up the car keys less painful and traumatic for those living with dementia. Our hope is that this project can make transport and mobility even better than when people were driving, and, the ultimate goal is to create a sustainable scheme that can be rolled out not just in Scotland, but across the rest of the UK.”