Changing Gears: Making a Plan for Retiring from Driving

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Lesson Outline

Driving plays an important role in accessing the places and people that are important in our daily life. For many, it provides a sense of independence and a feeling of competence. That’s why retiring from driving, whether voluntary or involuntary, can profoundly impact a person’s sense of self and lead to an earlier death or even admission to a long-term care home.

By taking this short, interactive lesson, you’ll learn about:

  • warning signs of unsafe driving,
  • health-related changes that impact our behind-the-wheel abilities such as:
    • cognition
    • vision and hearing
    • flexibility, movement, and strength
    • medications,
  • alternatives to driving, and
  • how to make a plan to retire from driving.

Meet Robert and his father Vinnie and find out what actions they take when age-related changes start to impact Vinnie’s driving.

(Estimated time to complete - 15 minutes)

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Lesson Resources

A guide to staying safe on the road for older adults from the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).


An example of an Advance Driving Directive to help start a discussion about retiring from driving. 



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What is life-space mobility?

While you may think of mobility as the ability to get up and move from your favourite chair, the term ‘life-space mobility’ refers more broadly to our ability to move within a range from environments that expand from your home to your neighbourhood and into your community and beyond. Research indicates that driving, social support, and walking speed have the greatest impact on a person's life-space mobility. This is why planning for the day when you may no longer be able to drive is very important.

Life-space mobility
Doctor speaking with older adult and family member

How to plan for retiring from driving

It’s important to be proactive for yourself and your loved ones.

  • Initiate a conversation with an older adult relative or friend about planning for driving cessation now while individuals are feeling healthy and well.
  • Use an advance driving directive, similar to advance directives for end-of-life care, to help with the conversation. You can see our resources area for an example.
  • Develop a driving retirement plan along with your financial planning for retirement; including a ‘mobility’ account to fund alternate forms of transportation.
  • Have an in-car driving assessment with a driving instructor.
  • Take a refresher course at a local driving school.
  • Consult with an occupational therapist to assess and address changes in your everyday activities, including driving. They can suggest strategies or aids that could enhance your ability to do such activities. 
  • Visit your healthcare team to assess your vision, hearing, medical conditions, and understand which medications might impact your driving.

Related Resources

Highway with cars overpasses
Driving: The super-activity of daily living?


Watch video

Car key on a keychain with a car

What does drawing clocks have to do with driving cars? Tests of cognitive skills that can flag older drivers who may be unsafe behind the wheel.

Older person with bike.

Alternatives to the car.

Older man driving car and adjusting mirror

Improve your safety and performance behind the wheel.


Older couple driving in a car

Smart technologies to help you behind the wheel.




Supporting greater mobility through autonomous vehicles.



DISCLAIMER: Many of our Blog Posts and e-learning lessons were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content identifies activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested in our Blog Posts and e-learning lessons may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with the current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.


Anthony Levinson

Anthony J. Levinson, MD, MSc, FRCPC

Neuropsychiatrist, Professor; Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University

Brenda Vrkljan

Brenda Vrkljan, PhD

Occupational Therapist, Professor; School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University

About this Project

The content of this resource was informed by several evidence-based resources on the Portal, including the McMaster Optimal Aging Video Post 'Driving: The super-activity of daily living?’ and the Canadian Medical Association’s best practice guideline on determining medical fitness to operate motor vehicles. These resources were critically appraised and synthesized by the authors. Some sources – such as the CMA driver’s guide – also conduct their own rigorous evidence review process. The content of the e-learning lesson was reviewed and assessed for accuracy by our subject matter experts in rehabilitation science and medical psychiatry. There are no conflicts of interest. Instructional design of the e-learning used best practices in evidence-informed multimedia learning. A panel of end-users reviewed the content and provided feedback on their user experience.

If you have questions or comments related to this resource please contact us at


  1. McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. Driving: The super-activity of daily living? (2021 Nov 24). Accessed November 24, 2021. Available from:
  2. Canadian Medical Association. CMA driver’s guide: Determining medical fitness to operate motor vehicles. 9.1 edition. Joule Inc.; 2019.  
  3. Kuspinar, A., Verschoor, C., Beauchamp, M. et al. Modifiable factors related to life-space mobility in community-dwelling older adults: results from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. BMC Geriatr. 2020;20(35). doi:10.1186/s12877-020-1431-5
  4. Cox AE, Cicchino JB. Continued trends in older driver crash involvement rates in the United States: Data through 2017-2018. J Safety Res. 2021;77:288-295. doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2021.03.013
  5.  Raven, Andres. Age of Independence. CAA Magazine. Winter 2020. Accessed Oct 30, 2021. Available from: Accessed November 24, 2021.
  6. Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Renew a G driver’s licence: 80 years and over. Updated December 2, 2021. Accessed December 2, 2021. (2013 Jun 5). Accessed October 30, 2021. Available from:
  7. McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. What does drawing clocks have to do with driving cars? Tests of cognitive skills that can flag older drivers who may be unsafe behind the wheel. (2016 May 25). Accessed October 30, 2021. Available from: ?
  8. McMaster Optimal Aging Portal. Alternatives to the car. (2020 Aug 26). Accessed Oct 30, 2021. Available from: