Are you still safe to drive?

Are You Still Safe to Drive? Is surely one of the most difficult conversations to have with an elderly relative? Here are some things to consider.

The statistics show that people over 80 are as likely to be the cause of or the casualty in a road traffic accident as people in their early 20’s. We know how important being able to keep driving is for an older person – not only for their dignity and independence but because often it is the only way they can actually travel to the places they need to go or they will become prisoners in their homes. We can understand how resistant people are to have the conversation about this but what often happens is that this delay leads to a crisis – a crisis that curtails an innocent life!

We ran a project a couple of years ago with Police Scotland and we founds that having the conversation and offering solutions can be a positive. We designed a questionnaire purely designed to help you or a loved one think about the changes you may want to make to help you drive safer for longer. The questionnaire asks

  • Do you feel confident that you are a sage driver?
  • Can you turn your head in both directions to see any blind spot?
  • Can you perform an emergency stop?
  • Do your eyes adjust well to changing levels of darkness/brightness?
  • Do you have your car maintained and checked at regular intervals?
  • Do you feel sufficiently alert to process all the road information around you and make good decisions

There are a list of 15 recommendations on the back but if I was to highlight one of the most important changes it would be the benefit of strength and balancing exercises such as OTAGO.

People who attend our classes report measurable improvement in their ability to turn their neck and this has made them much more confident that they can see traffic and pedestrians around them. Our members report that the exercises have helped improve their leg strength and they feel much more able to brake robustly when needed and even helps with clutch control. The improvement in their mobility generally also means they have more options about where to park because they no longer need to be as close to a door as before. However the biggest gain is that the regular exercise has a huge benefit on their concentration and alertness. You can find the full questionnaire by following this link. There is also one for helping pedestrians stay safer.

There does however often come a time when it is not safe for an older person to continue driving and this can provoke very negative grief reactions. There is no magic wand but the more preparation people make for this time and the more emotional and practical support they are given can have a positive impact. Here is a link to a guide that may help

Lastly I need to mention taxis! Our frustration knows no bounds when older people opt to sit at home rather than pay a few pounds (in urban areas) for a taxi instead of coming out to a life enhancing social opportunity. The barriers are often not financial[i] but the perception of it being an extravagance, the anxiety of who the driver will be or just a dogged belief that this is not an option that applies to them. If I could urge families to work on 2 lifestyle changes above all others they would be breaking up your sitting every hour every day and if you can’t walk to get out, or if you don’t feel able to get the bus anymore and if no one is able to give you a lift then DON’T become a Prisoner for the Price of a Taxi.


[i] We fully recognise the much wider issues around transport and access to affordable, sustainable and safe transport. We work in partnership with Police Scotland on a Travelling with Confidence campaign, contributors to the Alliance response to the National Transport Strategy 2019. We work with Community Transport Association Scotland and Living Street. It is not our intention to under estimate the challenges many people face physically or financially however this blog is written to highlight that for many older people and their relatives these are choices they may like to consider.

Driving an elderly relative somewhere this Christmas?

Things we have learned about giving lifts in cars to people who are less fit than before.

While the turkey was still cooking I used to be despatched to go and collect my grandmother and bring her to our house for the day. I would have been in my 20’s and she would have been in her 80’s. Neither of us thought ahead about what could go wrong with the logistics – we just looked forward to our day. Since then I have learned a lot about what can go wrong when you are offering an older relative a lift at any time of year and possibly most especially over the winter time. These lessons have come from the experiences of hearing about accidents that have happened in some of our member’s lives and from regularly being responsible for the safety of volunteer drivers.

I would be so pleased if people could take on this advice and massively reduce very preventable injuries. Some people don’t get out very often. If the person you are planning to give a lift to hasn’t been outside for a number of weeks you really need to check in advance that they have the balance and stamina to undertake this outing (people can seem fine walking around their home but this can change rapidly once they get outside). Our advice is start planning this outing with your loved ones now. Have a look at helping them to engage in some strength and balance exercises, check their sit to stand without assistance, can they swivel. How are they on uneven surfaces and do they have suitable shoes that still fit (sometimes shoes that fitted months previously don’t fit if feet are swollen or toenails need trimmed) If they haven’t been outside recently, consider building this up gradually with walks along the garden path. Check how they are on stairs. If this is going well then you are ready to plan to travel.

The following advice applies to almost any older person you may be giving a lift to

  • Agree or ask what type of support the older person needs, sometimes it has to be a right arm depending on what side a stick is used or vice versa.
  • Plan ahead about the height of the person supporting the elderly relative as different heights can cause imbalance when leaning on an arm
  • Have keys looked out and ready to hand before starting to walk.
  • Beware of handbags/gift bags in car foot well. (Handles and straps can cause a trip)
  • Gently prompt and support the wearing of a seatbelt ( there can be many reasons why an older person is resistant to wearing a seatbelt from physical discomfort to embarrassment at needing help with fastening and unfastening)
  • Forget about closing the car door until the older adult is safely inside or with someone else supporting
  • Does the person collecting know how to safely open a walking frame, wheelchair etc
  • Park where there is space to fully open the car door.

It’s not possible for us to cover every eventuality in this blog but we would urge you to think ahead and if you are planning to convey an elderly person who you don’t regularly give a lift to.

Lastly let us wish you happy travels and a safe and merry festive season!



VR over the door step – Testing, Testing

Its been a busy couple of months with our “VR over the Door Step” project. We have been testing out cameras and equipment, making films and and developing virtual reality apps.

We wanted to test what kind of Virtual Reality experiences older people liked and what challenges there were to getting those experiences to them. We thought that something like a “gentle” virtual trip to a birdlife reserve or park might appeal. So Simon Bishopp (lead VR artist on the project) produced a short 360 VR film at the RSPB in Lochwinnoch.

See the film here.

If you view this film using a suitably equipped smart phone, a fast internet connection and the YouTube app and place it into a VR head set (eg: Google Cardboard) then you can look around the film in 360 degrees. You can also view the film in an internet browser and use your mouse to look around the video.

The film was shot in various locations around the RSPB, including: bird hides, next to the pond, in front of the main building. Its a 360 film but it is linear in that runs over a certain time. 

Into this film we added a few features: A map which when watching in a headset the viewer can look down and see where they are in the virtual RSPB; embedded video clips that gave close ups of “bird action” that people might see from that location and some text graphics which shows the viewer which bird hide they were in. The sound track was recorded on location.

Testing our film

We took the film to one of the Roar Men’s group sessions and a couple of housebound elderly who use our befriending service.

Here is a film of us testing the film using a headset with the Men’s group.

So … what did we find out?

On the plus side, people enjoyed the experience, they liked the bird sounds, they said it gave them a feeling of being in the space.

And we also learned a lot of lessons.

  • Ease people in and out. You need to introduce people into VR, especially the first time, ease them into it and ask them about the experience afterwards.
  • A Swivel Chair. Ideally the viewer should be on a swivel chair as it makes it easier to turn around and see behind them. Trouble is people don’t normally sit on swivel chairs at home.
  • Heads and hair. A lot of people don’t like putting the head set on. Some people are funny about other people touching their heads but unfortunately the whole experience wasn’t smooth enough for them to do it themselves.
  • Lead in. We needed a long lead in on the film so people have enough time to orientate themselves.
  • Its was too fiddly. VR delivered this way is fiddly and not a smooth experience especially for a new user, it was stressful for the person setting up the experience. It should look easy and straight forward … and it really wasn’t.
  • People don’t look around. Our subjects where all sitting down and while in 360 VR people have the option to look all around them …. but they don’t, especially if they are in a fixed chair and have limited mobility. They might look around at the start but quickly they just look in one direction, usually within 100 – 120 degrees.
  • Viewers don’t look down or up. No one noticed our nice map which we put below their feet.
  • You can’t tell people what to look at. With a linear video its difficult to direct people to look at specific things at specific points. Very few people noticed the video inserts that we put into the videos. We weren’t using 360 sound so we couldn’t direct people that way.
  • Good internet needed. You need very good internet speeds to deliver VR experiences via Youtube, this would be difficult in many older peoples homes were there might be no internet.


  • We would limit the action to 180 degrees.
  • We would make it a more interactive experience where viewers could trigger objects by looking at them to find out more, see more content, etc.
  • We would put things that we want people to interact with in clear view.
  • We would deliver it as an app on a phone, that way we did not require internet.
  • Try to find a head set that was easy to put on and take off, or one that a viewer could hold to their face.

So Simon has set about creating the RSPB film as VR app. More about this in the next VR over the doorstep post.

Technical information:

Our RSBP film was shot on a first generation Samsung 360 camera (costs around £250).  And edited in ADOBE PREMIERE on a PC. Adobe allows you to edit your 360 footage in a 360 viewer. Samsung has a stand alone editor called “Gear 360 Action Director” but its very basic. You are meant to do most of the editing on a high spec Samsung phone. The latest edition of the Samsung gear 360 is also compatible with iPhones, the first generation wasn’t.

The other camera we tried was a RICOH THETA (1st generation). You control the camera through their app. We found the Theta shot clearer stills, while the Gear360 shot clearer video, but those were both first generation cameras.

We were using the most basic of VR viewers and the Youtube app to deliver the film. So we needed to load up the film, put the mobile phone into the viewer, put that on the persons head, put on the head phones and hope that the app didn’t crash. It was very involved.

There are viewer/ mobile combinations which much more interactive for example the Samsung Gear VR and a high specification of mobile phone allow a viewer to select a film through the viewer simply by looking at it on an interactive menu. But these are much more expensive, however if we are wanting to deliver an experience for the housebound elderly (possibly supported by a befriender) then the whole experience needed to be a lot more user friendly.

VR over the Doorstep has been funded by the Paisley 2021 Cultural Fund.



Befriending is aimed at people who are socially isolated and may have mobility or other disability issues. This service gives people the opportunity to meet with a volunteer in their own home or be accompanied for a walk, shopping or other activities agreed between ROAR and the older person.

Health & Wellbeing Clubs

Roar Connections For Life has 12 Clubs in 10 venues across Renfrewshire where members enjoy a healthy two course lunch along with a health and wellbeing activity.