In the summer of 2018, Hiroshi Matsushita had a conversation that would eventually spark a change in his lifestyle. His daughter had recently purchased a new car with driver assistance technology, which is designed to increase both driver and passenger safety. Seeing how the car had helped her, she encouraged her parents to invest in one as well.

At that time, Hiroshi and his wife, Masako, each owned cars that they had been driving for more than 10 years. Enticed by the idea of saving money on car expenses, they considered selling both of their cars and purchasing a new one with the latest safety features and a proven track record of reducing careless accidents. Their only concern was how sharing a single car would impact their daily routines. They began to do some research by tracking how often their cars were parked in the garage. After a few months, they found that both cars were rarely in use at the same time.

A few months into his research, Hiroshi attended Keiro’s Aging Into Tomorrow conference, where he was introduced to the concept that technology can support the independence and wellbeing of aging older adults. This newfound perspective helped him finalize the decision to sell his family’s cars and look into other transportation options.

One of the technologies discussed at the conference were ride sharing applications, such as Uber and Lyft. “I actually never used Uber or Lyft before, because I thought it was something you only use after you have one too many drinks,” Hiroshi said. But with the new information he learned, he realized that these mobile apps could be an alternative solution to getting around independently without having access to a car. In fact, researchers from the University of Southern California’s 2018 Body Computing Conference found that providing free unlimited on-demand transportation can improve older adults’ quality of life by up to 90 percent.

By the end of the year, Hiroshi and his wife sold their two cars in exchange for the new one their daughter had recommended. This car has all the technology that both he and his wife needed to maintain their independence while staying safe on the road.

Partner Support through Frequent Communication

Now that they had invested in a brand new car, the next step was to coordinate their schedules. Every week, Hiroshi and Masako would sit down together to go through their weekly schedules to find out when they each would need the car.

“I would like to say we managed our time and planned very well,” Hiroshi said. “We never had any conflicts.”

In the past, they had a shared calendar on the dining table that listed both of their schedules, but they never paid much attention to it. Now their weekly talks encourage them to communicate more frequently with each other, which has resulted in a better understanding of what the other person was doing. Hiroshi even said it has helped him get to know his wife better.

Unexpected Perks

As the couple changed their driving habits, they developed new hobbies and began enjoying new activities.  While Masako is out with the car, Hiroshi found himself watching the news, catching up on his favorite shows, responding to emails, and tending to all the tsundoku. Meaning “books piling up” in Japanese, tsundoku was a regular occurrence when he was out of the house. Now, with more time at home, those books no longer collect dust in the corner. He has been able to be more productive by allocating more time to his hobbies. Next on his list is a request from Masako: learning how to cook.

Hiroshi’s schedule book blocking off time slots he uses the car

Although there have been a few downsides to being a single-car household, the benefits far outweigh having to  fill the gas tank just a little more frequently than before. Hiroshi might have to fill up the gas tank more often than Masako does, but he never has to miss his social events and has even become more involved in his wife’s life while finding more time to do the activities he enjoys. So far, there have been no schedule conflicts, but if one ever does arise, Hiroshi is ready to use the ride sharing applications, which he has now downloaded on his phone. Despite their initial misgivings, Hiroshi and Masako live just as freely and independently with one car as they did with two, by way of compromise, alternative transportation and strong communication.

To learn more about alternative transportation, please visit Keiro’s Factsheet.