Senior Adults and Driving Concerns
It is important to understand that it is normal for people’s driving abilities to change as they grow older. It is even more important to be aware of the warning signs that age might be hindering the ability to drive safely. Here are some concerns to take note of that may affect driving:
- Pain or weakness in the body parts used for driving may cause issues for driving safely on the road. Some examples of this are if a senior is having difficulty turning his or her neck to look over the shoulder or if reduced strength in a senior’s arms it difficult to have quick reaction time.
- Reaction time is a very important issue to be aware of. A person’s reaction time may be slower because of age and this could result in a serious injury.
- Medications may also be a hindrance on safe driving. Certain types of medications or taking multiple medications at a time may have an effect on the body while driving.
- Hearing and eyesight problems can interfere with the ability to notice traffic light/signs or hear emergency sirens.
However, aging does not automatically mean that seniors cannot drive at all. There are numerous precautions and steps that can be taken to help seniors keep driving safely.
- Seniors need to schedule and attend regular check-ups with their doctors. Staying healthy is vital and will help decrease any problems on the road due to health concerns.
- It is important for senior adults to get their eyes and ears checked every year. This includes making sure corrective lenses and hearing aids are correct and up-to-date and these should be worn when driving if prescribed by a doctor.
- It is important to make sure that a senior’s medications do not cause problems on the road. He or she should consult their doctor to discuss how the medicine will affect their driving abilities, before they take it and get behind the wheel.
- It seems simple, but getting an adequate amount of sleep is crucial for continuing to drive safely.
- Owning and driving the right car can also help seniors drive safely. Choose a car that is an automatic with power steering and power brakes. It also helps to keep the car “healthy” as well, with regular trips to the mechanic.
- In today’s busy and distracted world, it is critical for seniors to drive defensively. This means leaving ample space in between cars while driving and constantly being aware of the surroundings. As well as trying to stay as focused as possible on the road without the distractions of a map or cell phone. If they absolutely must be used, pull over to the side of the road.
Even though aging is not the equivalent of poor driving, it is essential to understand that sometimes seniors must adjust to a life where driving is no longer an option. This may be difficult at first, but it can be beneficial to seniors once they understand what this life entails.
- If seniors are no longer driving, this can actually save them money. They no longer need to buy gas or spend money on trips to their local mechanic.
- This can also be a health benefit. Giving up driving can create more chances to cycle or walk to the places that seniors need to get to, if it is not too far. Regular exercise is vital for great health and this is a good way to exercise everyday.
- This can also help seniors enjoy the benefits of an expanded social life. If some senior adults are unable to cycle/walk to most places, they can simply carpool with a friend. If this makes a person uncomfortable and feel like he or she might be intruding on another person’s time or schedule, it can be suggested to offer the friend gas money or do the driver a small favor in return.
It can be difficult for loved ones to approach the topic of driving to senior adults, especially if the decision has been made to stop driving because of safety concerns.
Here are some suggestions for making the conversation flow smoothly when speaking to a senior adult about his or her driving safety.
- This conversation needs to be spoken with kindness and respect because this may be a difficult change for a senior adult. Make sure to empathize with his or her feelings during this adjustment.
- If there are multiple loved ones who have noticed these safe driving concerns, bring them into this discussion as well. The senior might take the suggestion better if they know that one person is not simply nagging about the senior adult’s driving. He or she understands that it is a true issue.
- Make sure that solutions and alternatives are brought up in the conversation as well. The senior adult needs to understand that there are other ways to get to the places they need to go. Do not just let them think that because they cannot drive anymore, that they are not able to go anywhere now.
- The senior adult will be able to comprehend the situation better if he or she is presented with actual concerns. Do not just say “Your driving is poor.” They need to hear exactly what issues might harm them while driving such as, “The last time we rode together, and you almost missed that stop sign on Main Street.”
As people age, it is important to take note of the warning signs that driving may become an issue. This does not always mean that seniors need to stop driving. There are precautions and tips that can be taken to maximize safety on the road. However, if there comes a time when a senior must stop driving for his or her own safety; remember to approach the conversation with a few key suggestions in mind to help the conversation go smoother.
*** This was written with the aid of the article “Senior Citizens and Driving: Safety Tips, Warning Signs and Knowing When to Stop” written by Joanna Saisan, M.S.W., Monika White, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson.
Link to the article: http://www.helpguide.org/elder/senior_citizen_driving.htm
Link to site: http://www.helpguide.org/