Study: Profile of seniors' transportation habits

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In 2009, 3.25 million people aged 65 and over, or three-quarters of all seniors, had a driver's licence. Of that number, about 200,000 were aged 85 and over.

Self-reported survey data show that the majority of seniors, even those of more advanced ages, travel mostly by car.

There was a substantial gap between men and women with respect to having a driver's licence, particularly in those aged 85 and over. In 2009, 67% of men aged 85 and over living in private households had a driver's licence, compared with 26% of women.

In every province, a majority of men aged 85 and over had a driver's licence. The highest proportions were in New Brunswick (81%), and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (both 77%). The proportion of women aged 85 and over with a driver's licence varied from 14% in Quebec to 44% in Saskatchewan.

In 2009, more than two-thirds (68%) of seniors aged 65 to 74 reported that their main form of transportation was driving their own vehicle. Less than 6% used public transit and 3% walked or used a bicycle.

Among seniors aged 85 and over, 56% of men and 18% of women reported that their main form of transportation was driving their own vehicle.

Self-reported health status data were used to rank seniors according to various levels of functional capacity. The ranking showed that the vast majority of seniors who had a driver's licence had good or very good visual and auditory capacities and cognitive abilities.

For example, among seniors who were classified as having very good hearing capacity, 76%, or approximately 2.8 million, had a driver's licence.

However, of seniors who reported having the most serious hearing problems, 53%, or 26,400, had a driver's licence. Of those, 25,000 had driven a vehicle in the month prior to the survey.

More than 3 million seniors who had a driver's licence had very good or good visual capacity. Among seniors who did not see well enough to read the newspaper or to recognize a friend on the other side of the street, even with glasses, 19%, or 13,600, had a licence. About half of this group had driven a vehicle in the previous month.

In 2009, 28% of people aged 65 and over who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia, roughly 20,000 people, had a driver's licence. Of these seniors, 14,600 had driven in the month preceding the survey.

Seniors whose main form of transportation was driving their car were the most likely to have participated in a social activity during the week prior to the survey. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of this group did so, compared with 53% of those who were mainly passengers and did not have a licence and 46% of those who used accessible transit or taxis.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5146.

This study used data from the healthy aging component of the 2009 Canadian Community Health Survey. It focused on 16,369 respondents aged 65 and over living in private households, who represented more than 4.3 million seniors.

The article "Profile of seniors' transportation habits" is now available in the January 2012 online issue of Canadian Social Trends, no. 93 (11-008-X, free), available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116;, Communications Division.