Abstract

Importance: Driving is one of the most important instrumental activities of daily living. As adults age, many face challenges with maintaining independent driving, leading to risk for decreased occupational engagement and quality of life. The extent to which occupational therapy services meet the driver rehabilitation needs of older adults is unknown.

Objective: To characterize driver rehabilitation service utilization among a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older adults.

Design: Exploratory, descriptive cross-sectional study using the National Health and Aging Trends Study 2016 wave.

Participants: Community-dwelling adults age 65 and older who received rehabilitation services in the past year (N = 1,173).

Outcomes and Measures: Sociodemographic information, comorbidities, rehabilitation use, community mobility, and participation restrictions were collected using self-report and performance-based measures.

Results: Of this sample of older adults, 63.0% reported driving as their primary mode of transportation, 25.8% reported limitations in community participation related to transportation, and 9.2% reported having received rehabilitation focused on driving or other transportation goals in the past year. Findings from this study suggest a discrepancy between utilization of driver rehabilitation and self-reported need.

Conclusions and Relevance: Many older adults reported limitations in community participation for transportation-related reasons, yet driver rehabilitation represented only a small proportion of services used. As experts in driver rehabilitation, occupational therapy practitioners should lead the way in advocating for increased utilization of driver rehabilitation and development of innovative, accessible transportation options to promote community mobility and participation among older adults.

What This Article Adds: The results of this study illustrate an important discrepancy between self-reported need for and utilization of driver rehabilitation services. Occupational therapy practitioners can play an important role in meeting older adults’ driving and transportation needs to enable them to fully participate in their community and daily routines.

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