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Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, there are about 30 million licensed drivers aged 65 or older. Older drivers are expected to outlive their driving ability by 7-10 years. Aging brings about changes in vision, ability to react quickly, attention, and the ability to physically move to control the car.
 
Many families are faced with the question, “How do we know if mom or dad is unsafe to be on the road?”

Asking these questions may help you decide if you need to initiate a conversation about driving safely:

  • Getting lost on routes that should be familiar?
  • Noticing new dents or scratches to the vehicle?
  • Receiving a ticket for a driving violation?
  • Experiencing a near miss or crash recently?
  • Being advised to limit/stop driving due to a health reason?
  • Overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?
  • Taking any medication that might affect driving safely?
If you answered, “yes” to any of the previous questions it is important to have caring, respectful, and non-confrontational conversations about safety on the road. Showing genuine concern and understanding, and offering viable alternatives that will not injure the older driver’s self-respect and sense of independence are important ways to get the conversation started.
 
Sometimes limitations on driving, rather than taking the keys all together is the solution that makes the most sense for now.  With concrete examples, you can help them consider approaches to focus the conversation on resolving the issues, and preserving independence. Focusing the conversation on promoting safe conditions, as opposed to restrictions, can help keep the conversation flowing. With that approach, together you and your loved one can develop a plan to achieve the safe conditions.

For example:

  • If vision is limited at night due to cataracts, suggesting driving during the day to keep everyone safe.
  • Sometimes an evaluation by a OT/Driver Rehab Specialist will allow a plan for interventions and for any adaptive feature to the vehicle and fit the car to the adult (Seat/back cushions, panoramic mirrors, pedal extenders, etc.)
  • AAA has a “Safe Driving for Mature Operators” refresher course which might be beneficial to put all parties at ease.
  • Offering to keep the car for someone else to drive your loved one around in may keep the conversation moving forward.
It is important to have open and honest conversations with your older loved ones about driving.  Often, seniors are hesitant to stop driving because they feel their family members will not have time to drive them to appointments or to do errands. 

Happier at Home can help your older loved ones who are no longer able to drive.  We drive our clients to doctors appointments or to do errands.  It is important to help maintain a sense of independence while also implementing safe driving practices.
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