Senior citizens in America often have a stereotypical stigma for poor driving capabilities. However, getting older does not automatically impair your driving skills. The changes brought on by age in senior’s bodies may affect physical and cognitive traits used for driving, but there are ways that seniors can consciously improve their driving skills to keep their license for longer in spite of these changes by being careful.
How exactly does age affect senior driving abilities?
- Alzheimer and dementia – As senior Americans enter into their later years, they often become more susceptible to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, diseases that affect memory, thinking, and problem solving skills.
- Eyesight and hearing impairment – Hindrances to vision and hearing brought on by aging can affect senior driving for reading signs and environmental cues. Senior eyesight may become too sensitive to the sun through the windshield or headlights at night as well. Seniors can check their eyesight and hearing at a doctors office to be deemed safe for the road.
- Arthritis disease – diseases affecting the hands and dexterity can be harmful to senior driving abilities when handling the wheel.
- Bad joints – Additionally, the joints used in turning the wheel, putting on a seatbelt, and operating a car’s brakes and accelerator can become an issue for senior driving.
- Reflexes – Certain cognitive impairments can affect the reflexes necessary for making fast reactions to traffic occurrences or responding to traffic signals and signs, or abrupt stops. Aging may result in a shorter attention span and reduced multi-tasking skills needed for navigating a dynamic road.
- Physical disabilities and pain – Sometimes injuries and health development result in states of pain and discomfort that can become distracting and hazardous to a senior’s ability to focus on the road.
- Over-cautiousness – Seniors are often aware of their fragility and cognitive problems, but do not want to risk losing their license by making mistake. This results in some seniors being overly cautious and driving dangerously slow (to avoid speeding or accidents) but may put others at risk who are trying to maneuver around them.
Seniors viewing loosing their drivers license as equivalent to loosing their freedom in the 21st century world. To make sure that you are still capable of road traveling, a senior may submit themselves for a driver refresher course. Costs for driver refresher courses are often covered by the AARP for senior members.
Smart Driving Tips to Help You Keep Your License
- Only drive in familiar areas, plan your route ahead of time for new destinations to reduce anxiety and possible confusion
- Try to make trips to places that are close and easy to reach.
- Allow for extra time when making a trip or outing, so you are not rushed or prone to make any irrational driving decisions
- Do not drive when you feel stress or exhaustion. Arrange for a carpool or get a ride when you feel these symptoms.
- Be aware of the side effects of medicines, and whether or not it is advisable to operate machinery or drive after a dose.
- Always wear a seatbelt when driving; it is not only critical for safety, but the law of the land.
- For seniors who use cell phones or smartphones, always be sure not to add the extra hazardous distraction of talking on the phone or texting while driving.
- Regularly check your mirrors while driving to maintain a sense of your surroundings.
- For the safety and comfort of others, try not to drive to close behind anyone driving in front of your vehicle.
When is it time to give up driving?
Pay attention for the exterior signs and indications of when it may be at last time to consider giving up driving for the sake of your health and safety. If you are experiencing:
- Large amounts of other drivers honking at you frequently
- Have you been having many close-calls or accidents lately
- Are you getting lost often while on the road
- Have members of your family expressed concern
Other Transportations Options
Retiring your license is not the end of the world. A senior can find many alternative methods for getting around when driving is not longer an option. You may get a ride from members of your family when living at home. Public transportation like buses and cabs are available in city areas. Many senior living facilities offer transportation for senior residents as well.