There is no age limit on how long a person can drive. A specific age does not equal a sign of an inability to drive safely. Many elderly individuals are safe and careful drivers. It is also encouraged for elderly people to continue driving as long as they can safely do so. Driving provides them with the ability to maintain their independence and enjoy an active social life.
Driving also allows elderly individuals to stay connected with their loved ones and their communities. These things are very important in maintaining a happier life. However, as a person ages, they are more susceptible to age-related health issues and disorders. Many of these issues can make it unsafe for an older person to continue driving safely.
As a person ages, the so-called “senior moments” can happen from time to time. The funny thing about “senior moments” is that they happen to everyone, regardless of age. However, when those “senior moments” seem to happen on a regular basis, there may be more going on. Although it may be difficult to admit, older individuals are more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s. Regular “senior moments” could be a sign of one of these issues.
This can be a difficult thing for many seniors to face. Fortunately, there are facilities that can assist with this part of senior living. These facilities can provide assistance for seniors to maintain memory and manage their activities of daily living. However, if a senior has developed a memory disorder, driving may become dangerous. Forgetting where they are or what they are doing while they are driving can pose serious risks of accidents. Those with memory disorders should give up driving to ensure their safety.
Vision and Hearing Loss
As a person ages, vision and hearing loss are very likely. Normal changes in the body as a person ages can diminish vision acuity and hearing. People of all ages are required to have a certain level of vision before they are able to get a driver’s license. This is true for elderly individuals as well. As long as their vision can be properly corrected with glasses or other corrective lenses, then driving should be fine. However, when vision problems are severe, adjustments to driving may be necessary.
Some seniors give up night driving due to vision problems as they get older. When their vision becomes worse, all driving must cease. As for hearing loss, proper hearing is not a requirement for driving. Many people with hearing loss of all ages drive safely every day. However, if hearing loss is a problem for the senior, this may be a sign that driving is no longer an option.
As a person ages, more health issues are common. With these increasing health issues often come medications. Elderly individuals often take a plethora of medications each day. Many of these medications come with a lot of side effects that can pose risks when driving. Some medications can interact with other medications and increase these types of side effects. Side effects, such as drowsiness, tremors, and blurred vision, can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to drive.
It is important for seniors or their loved ones to take notice of these side effects. If there are serious side effects that can affect driving, it should be discussed with the doctor to see if there can be changes to the medications. If the medications are necessary and cannot be changed due to health issues, it may be necessary to quit driving while taking these medications to avoid many dangers that can occur while on the road.
Slowed Reaction Time
As a person gets older, reflexes may get significantly slower. This can make it harder for them to react as quickly as they once did. Other age-related issues can further complicate this. Stiff joints and weakened muscles are sometimes common in older people. This can further slow reaction times when driving. Slowed reaction times can make a person more likely to be involved in an accident. Arthritis is another common condition that elderly individuals face.
This can make it more difficult to move and react quickly in certain situations. For many people who face these issues, it may be a good idea to take steps to avoid problems while driving. This can include giving extra space between them and the vehicle ahead of them and breaking earlier than normal when coming to a stop. Avoiding highways and heavy traffic areas is also a good idea. If reaction time and mobility become too difficult to keep up with the demands of driving, it may be time for the elderly driver to stop driving.
Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist
If there are signs that an older driver may be having difficulties with their driving, it may be a good idea to take them to a certified driver rehabilitation specialist or CDRS. The CDRS is an expert driving instructor or occupational therapist that can properly evaluate a person’s driving abilities. This specialist can review the older individuals driving and make a determination as to whether they should continue driving.
If the specialist determines the older driver is still safe, then they can continue driving as usual. Often, the CDRS will provide skills and assistance to help the elderly driver improve their driving skills. The CDRS may even suggest additional safety equipment for the elderly driver to assist with their driving. If the CDRS determines that the elderly individual is no longer safe behind the wheel, they will recommend driving to stop and offer support in this transition.
Giving up driving can be devastating to an elderly individual. Unfortunately, it can be necessary for protecting them and other drivers on the road. Often, the elderly individual can feel as though they lost their independence. It is important for loved ones to provide care and support during this transition. Most areas offer public transportation and senior services to help these individuals with transportation to the various places they need or want to go.