Seniors and Driving: Encouraging Safety Behind the Wheel

Remember those formative teenage years and how nervous you were getting behind the wheel for the very first time? Later in life, if you helped a teenager of your own learn to drive, you likely experienced equal - if not superior - bouts of nervousness. And now that your aging parents are getting older, you are probably also starting to think about their safety behind the wheel. There are a few simple considerations to think about as your aging loved ones continue to enjoy the independence driving offers, while making safety a top priority.

What makes a safe older driver?
Vision
Vision is the primary sense used in driving, in fact about 90 percent of the information required for safe driving relates to vision. Maintaining annual eye exams can help to reveal any changes in vision that may compromise your loved one's ability to drive safe.

Cognition
Driving is a complex activity that requires memory, image recognition, attention, and decision-making skills. Regardless of age, certain medications can affect a driver's cognitive abilities, so it is important to review any medicines prior to operating a vehicle. If age is factor, a driver rehabilitation specialist can help you determine if a loved one's driving ability is changing.

Physical capacity
As we age, our physical abilities and capacity can fluctuate and change. Strength and flexibility are two important factors in driving, so engaging in an age-appropriate exercise regimen can help seniors maintain the physical capacity to safely operate a vehicle.

How can I promote older-driver safety?
Do your homework
Various volunteer organizations have online courses for older drivers to assess their safety while driving and educational programs to learn how well a senior fits with his or her personal vehicle.

Start the conversation early
It is much easier to have a calm and productive discussion with your aging loved one about his or her driving abilities if it happens prior to a potential issue. Discussing a loved one's driving does not have to be off limits in conversation. Bring it up in casual conversations so it does not feel like a heavier topic than necessary.

Offer rides
Family members, friends, and loved ones can all help to promote older-driver safety among their senior loved ones. If it is determined that an older loved one is no longer able to drive, friends and family can provide transportation assistance to him or her, which allows for some bonding time as you drive a loved one to appointments and on errands.

An individual's age should not be the sole indicator on whether or not he or she should continue driving, as there are multiple factors that contribute to a safe older driver. If you are concerned about a loved one's safe driving ability, you should consult a driver rehabilitation specialist or your loved one's physician for more information. If your loved one lives in a senior living community and has decided to put away the car keys, ask about scheduled transportation options available through the community to assist with doctor appointments and errands.

At Holiday Retirement communities around the country, seniors are actively discussing their driving capabilities, and many other relevant topics, in Let's Talk Seniors® seminars. These events are engaging, instructive, and help local businesses get to know our communities and our residents. It is our way of opening our communities up to the local neighborhood. Find a Let's Talk Seniors event at your local Holiday Retirement community and RSVP today!