Ninety-one-year-old Eileen Lane has been meeting her friends for a game of cards, sometimes twice a week, for more than 15 years.

She says it’s a highlight of her week.

“They’re great girls. We have a good laugh, and it means we’re getting out with people.”

But for the past year, after surgery left her with limited feeling in her right hand, she’d been unable to drive herself, which left the New Windsor local feeling isolated.

“It was hard not being able to jump in the car when I felt like it.”

Figures from the AA show 56% of those who stop driving do so because of a medical problem – but only one in ten older drivers have made plans around how they’ll live without driving before they had to stop.

Age Concern’s chief executive Karen Billings-Jensen said it’s a growing problem, with our senior population set to increase from 850,000 (17%of the population) to around 1.5 million (24% of the population) by 2053.

“We know that we have an aging population, so I guess what we’ll know is that proportionately then the people that will not be able to drive in later life will also increase.

“So we do need to make sure that there are services there.”

Age Concern is now teaming up with driving companion service Driving Miss Daisy to launch a new booklet, ‘Life Without a Car’, encouraging older drivers to plan ahead for a time when they can’t drive.

“The tips are very much thinking about the things that you do and how you will keep doing them when you can no longer drive.

“So what are the really important social connections? Is it a social group or an exercise group? How do I do the things that are important to me as being in my community?”

Driving Miss Daisy owner and director Melanie Harper said the driving service is one way for senior New Zealanders to keep connected with their communities.

“We just want people to be out and about in their communities, and not at home and lonely.

“Loneliness is a terrible, terrible thing for a lot of New Zealanders.”

Eileen’s now being driven by Driving Miss Daisy service to her weekly card group.

“Otherwise, I’d be stuck at home, maybe not seeing anybody for days.

“It’s really important [getting to the card group.] We have a lot of laughs.”

‘Life Without a Car’ is available from Age Concern’s offices or either organisation’s website.