After decades of driving, many seniors struggle to accept that their ability may have been affected. Though the skills and knowledge are still there, as we age, reaction times slow down. This can make driving perilous for many seniors, which is why older adults may have to limit their driving, or even stop altogether.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, after the age of 75, the risk of collision increases for every mile you drive. This means that seniors over this age should be exceptionally careful and attentive to their current abilities. After a certain point, it’s no longer safe to drive, and for their own safety and the safety of others, it’s important to pay close attention to when they meet this point.
Assessing for Driving Safely
There are certain factors that make it more likely for a senior to experience a car crash. Assessing these risks can help seniors determine if it’s safe for them to drive or not:
- Leg strength and general mobility
- Head/neck flexibility
- High- and low-contrast visual acuity
- Working memory
- Visualization of missing information
- Visual search
- Useful field of view
Aging Changes That Can Affect Driving
As we age, there are several areas of health that can be affected that influence driving.
As we age, our vision declines. This is due to natural changes in the body over time, as well as diseases like glaucoma. It’s also important to consider hearing when it comes to driving, as sounds such as emergency sirens and honking are essential to safety on the road.
Driving requires many cognitive skills to be used simultaneously — for example, visual processing, attention, and memory. As we age, it’s common for processing and judgment to slow down, which can influence driving skills.
Over time, our joints because stiffer, muscles weaken, and flexibility declines. Movements such as turning the head to look both ways, proper steering, and using the gas and brake pedals can become more difficult for seniors.
Medical conditions that require medication become more common as we age. Many medications affect driving, such as sleep aids, antidepressants, and pain medication. It’s important to be aware of how any medications may impact your driving skills.
Certain medical conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, ALS, MS, Parkinson’s disease, depression, sleep disorders, thyroid disease, and severe arthritis, could all impact driving ability.
When to Hang Up the Keys
Sometimes, an assessment leads to a senior driver being told they have to stop driving. It’s also common for seniors to decide for themselves that driving is too stressful now. This can be a profound loss, and many associate it with less independence.
That’s why it’s best to include your senior loved one in decision making around driving. Begin the conversation earlier rather than later, and emphasize that the majority of people will have to stop driving, and it’s just a natural part of aging. Encouraging them to engage in other activities that they find meaningful may also help too.
Does your aging parent need home health care in Naples? We would love to help. Contact Gulf Shore Private Home Care today to get started.