When a senior should hand over the car keys is often a contentious issue within families. Loved-ones are concerned about the safety of a parent or elderly relative and worried they may pose a risk to others on the road. But many older adults rail against losing their driving privileges because it mean losing independence and in some cases can lead to social isolation and depression.
According to a recent Consumer Report review of new research, giving up driving increases the mortality risk for seniors as well as contributing to the likelihood of depression and necessitating a move into a nursing home. Seniors who live in rural areas or other communities without reliable public transportation are most vulnerable.
There are certainly times when poor health, changes in cognitive function or medication side effects make driving a danger for older adults. But there are programs seniors who are able and determined to stay mobile can benefit from. Older adults may be able to keep driving skills sharper longer with continuing education classes or with the help of a driver rehabilitation specialist. Self-driving cars may be a ways off yet but many new vehicles come equipped with features, such as lane departure alerts and automatic breaking that may help seniors drive safer longer.
When the time does come to hang up the keys in order to help ease the transition after giving up driving, it’s important to help an elderly loved-one come up with a list of transportation alternatives. Tapping into community ride services or partnerships with on-demand ride programs like Uber and Lyft can take time but could keep seniors living at home longer while still being able to get to doctor appointments, go shopping and remain socially engaged.
Ideally, older adults will plan for the time they can no longer drive by making sure they are living in an area where alternative transportation is readily available and grocery stores, pharmacies and community centers are within walking distance. But few people actually take a proactive approach to the challenges associated with aging and in many cases, decisions are made in a hurry during a crisis by someone else.
To learn more about driver rehabilitation visit the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists website by following this link. To connect with affordable senior transportation in Canada and the United States try GoGoGrandparent online here.