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To be or not to be (an older driver): social identity theory and driving cessation in later life

  • NANCY A. PACHANA (a1), JOLANDA JETTEN (a1), LOUISE GUSTAFSSON (a2) and JACKI LIDDLE (a3)

Abstract

Anticipated driving cessation required due to health or cognitive decline often evokes concerns about practical aspects of retaining mobility and quality of life as well as personal and social identity changes in older persons. While driving cessation is often perceived as stressful because it disrupts peoples' lives and poses practical hurdles, we argue that part of the stress associated with driving cessation can be attributed to identity change with regard to thinking of oneself as ‘no longer a driver’ as well as the perception of ‘getting old’. In an exploratory study, 208 older adults who had either ceased driving or had a plan to stop driving in the near future completed a ‘Driver Identity Survey’ with multiple questions about how they thought they would feel before and after stopping driving, as well as worries about practical hassles, life changes and changed relationships. Participants reported driving cessation as a significant life event associated with subjectively feeling older. Irrespective of current driving status, older participants identified the state of having ceased driving as associated with feeling older than their chronological age. Participants' expectations about practicalities and social identity changes were both significant predictors of stress associated with driving cessation. Discussion focuses on how expectations of anticipated changes in functionality and identity may influence driving cessation decisions and adjustment in later life.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Nancy A. Pachana, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia E-mail: npachana@psy.uq.edu.au

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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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