January 4, 2018

elderly driversIt’s one of the more challenging decisions we face in older years, and an extremely sensitive issue for adult children to initiate with their elder parents: giving up the car keys. Driving a vehicle, while providing an inherent feeling of freedom and independence, may become very risky due to a variety of variables related to elderly drivers. And surrendering that independence for safety’s sake can feel defeating.

Additionally, we must now take into account the latest studies that show giving up driving can result in both mental and physical decline. This determination points to a vicious cycle of diminishing health resulting in the need to give up driving, leading to even more health decline through more solitude, depression, and less physical activity.

The research, publicized by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, discovered that seniors who surrendered their driving rights became two times as inclined to suffer from worsening depression, reduced physical functioning, and increased decline in cognitive abilities. And even more concerning, individuals who gave up on driving were more likely to die during the following 3-5 year time period.

Senior researcher for the study and founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Guohua Li, points out, “This is a very complex issue. It’s a sensitive balance, and the pros and cons of not driving need to be weighed on a case-by-case basis.”

In some scenarios, decreasing driving during some conditions will ease the change into relinquishing the keys for good. The senior’s medical doctor ought to be consulted first, of course, and with his or her approval, try restricting driving in the nighttime, in bad weather, and in busier traffic.

Dr. Marian Betz, spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research, stresses the need for older persons to continue to be engaged in their community and to be as mobile and socially involved as possible. Members of the family are encouraged to find opportunities for their senior loved one to take part in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc.

St Louis home health provider Continuum provides a practical solution: safe, reliable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the freedom to continue to come and go as they wish, without placing themselves or other individuals in harm’s way. We pay attention to each senior’s preferred plan in order to reach desired destinations, allowing the senior to remain in full control over when and where to go. Contact us at (314) 863-9912 to learn more.