‘I can still drive a car.’: Self-presentation in later life and the symbolic value of driving

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Abstract

This qualitative study draws attention to the symbolic value of driving or having a valid driver's licence among older adults as part of their impression management. While several studies have focused on driving behaviour, safety, risk factors and not least the consequences of driving cessation, the present study from the Faroe Islands contributes to the body of knowledge concerning older adults and driving by bringing an impression management lens to this issue. Social constructionism formed both the theoretical and methodological approach and data came from interviews with three couples and eight individuals in their eighties. All the male participants still had their driver's licence and were active drivers except for one. Among the women, four had driver's licences and three were active drivers. Our findings point to the necessity of understanding the reluctance to give up driving as being not only related to quality of life, mobility and independence, but also being highly related to preserving one's identity as a competent and ‘not that old’ person. Contrary to common prejudices against older drivers, the findings also showed that these participants reported self-regulation adjustments to continue driving safely. The study indicates a need to support older drivers to continue driving if they wish to do so. It is not only a question of mobility or being independent, but also related to preserving one's social identity in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAgeing and Society
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2023

Keywords

  • ageing
  • identity
  • self-esteem
  • driving
  • self-presentation
  • social constructionism

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