Age isn’t an automatic indicator of when it is time to stop driving, but it is important to regularly monitor yours or your loved one’s driving skills and capabilities to ensure that it is safe for everyone on the road. Although driving can help older adults to stay independent and connected to families and community activities, getting older does make driving riskier.
Many health conditions may threaten a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. These can include dementia, problems with hearing or vision, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and diabetes. It is important to note, however, that the decision to stop or continue driving should be about driving performance, not about the existence of a health condition.
Many older adults resist giving up their driving privileges, even when their loved ones have concerns about their abilities. It can be useful to keep an eye out for yours or your loved one’s potential driving behaviour changes, such as discomfort behind the wheel, confusion about traffic signals, difficulty remaining in the lane, and unusual reactions to other motorists and situations. Other warning signs to look out for include being reluctant to drive, vehicle damage, and traffic tickets.
If you have concerns about a senior’s ability to drive, it is important to address these. It can be an awkward or difficult conversation and will likely take more than one discussion to resolve the matter. It is best to start with curiosity and questions rather than an attack, allow time for long conversations, and approach it with a genuine desire to learn about their ideas and concerns.
It can also be useful to consider whether medications or glasses may be an issue – addressing drug side effects or interactions or visiting the eye doctor may help seniors to safely drive for longer. It can also help for seniors to follow restrictions such as these as an alternative to completely giving up driving:
- Avoiding driving at night or in bad weather
- Driving only near home and in familiar places
- Limiting distractions while driving. These can include the radio and other noises, conversations with passengers, and cell phone use
- Avoiding driving on highways or roads with higher speed limits
This McMaster Optimal Aging Portal Interactive Lesson can help with recognizing the warning signs and planning for a time when you or your loved one can no longer drive.
Adjusting to a life without driving can be difficult, but there are often other options for transportation as well as services which can provide what is needed to the senior’s home. Making the transition from being a driver to being a passenger can be made easier by creating a network of these arrangements in your local area.
Ensuring safe driving is just one part of an overall proactive planning process for aging. At Proactive Seniors we focus on ensuring that our clients know their own particular risks that may impact their ability to thrive and how they can best mitigate those risks to stay healthy, happy and safe longer. Please reach out if you’d like to discuss how we can help create a Proactive Plan or help find the best place to live if home is no longer the best option.