Age can affect the way we drive and sometimes, being advanced in age may be a critical concern for safety on the road. A Place for Mom shares factors that affect one’s ability to drive along with helpful tips on how we can keep our senior loved ones safe while they drive.
As we age, our bodies undergo changes which tend to slowly part from the vitality of youth making what used to be easy and usual driving practices challenging to do. Here is a list of age-related physical changes that can affect driving:
1. Cognition - we use many different cognitive skills when driving. Having to be alert and able to incorporate multiple brain functions at once is very important when driving. As these functions decline in time, judgment of space and speed become impaired.
2. Hearing and Vision Loss - hearing and vision check-ups are crucial to manage when planning to drive safely in later years. It’s important to hear honking from others on the road and see traffic emergency signals in the distance.
3. Medical Conditions - certain medical conditions can make driving unsafe. Some of these ailments include: dementia, diabetes, severe arthritis, and sleeping disorders. If you have any medical conditions, it’s advised to speak to your doctor about your current situation and what should be done to keep you safe while driving.
4. Medications - the medicines you take can also affect the way you drive. Medications for depression, pain, and diabetes are only a few examples of medicines that could affect driving. Make sure to always talk to your doctor about the medications you take and the affects they will have on driving.
5. Motor Functions - as we progress in age, our flexibility lessens and our joints become stiffer. This means that being able to quickly change gears or turn our head and neck to look for traffic can become more of a struggle.
If you are feeling concerned about a senior loved one’s safety, there are safety evaluation tests that can be done. These tests are completed in rehab centers, VA offices and even hospitals and are given by rehabilitation specialists and occupational therapists. Once the tests are completed, the driver can work with the occupational therapist to strengthen certain skills used when driving.
Another option for checking the safety of seniors while driving is to take a refresher course. The AARP Driver Safety Program course is the first and largest course created for those 50 years and older.