For most people, the ability to drive and get from point A to point B with no hassle brings a sense of independence to oneself. To many, getting into one’s own vehicle whenever and going to whatever for any reason is a sense of freedom. However, there is a chance that one day that sense of freedom could disappear. That day can happen when your age influences your ability to drive. From that day, there might be a feeling of grief, disappointment, and the loss of independent living for seniors like yourself.
However, seniors like yourself should not be let down by the thought of the possibility of losing their ability to drive or handing over their driver’s license to their family. There are plenty of reasons why seniors should be able to drive and methods to keep them on the road safely.
Why You Shouldn’t Lose the Ability to Drive as a Senior
While it is true that driving skills do decline with age, your family shouldn’t automatically pull the keys away from you just because you hit seventy. Like all other age groups, driving skills vary from one person to the other. For example, one elderly driver might be safer than the other elder; the same might be said of one teenage driver when compared to another teenage driver.
The Reasons Why Seniors Might Have their Driving Privileges Taken Away
Safe driving requires a multitude of coordination of various skills. As the body ages, certain motor and mental skills diminishes, thus influencing one’s driving ability. These include the following:
- A decrease in one’s own in response time to certain situations.
- Overtime decreasing of vision and hearing.
- Progressive decrease in muscular strength and flexibility.
- Reduction in one’s ability to focus and concentrate on several tasks/skills needed to drive.
- Lowered tolerance to the side effects caused by current medications. If unsure, there is an online tool by AAA to help see if medications affect your driving.
In addition, seniors like yourself might be affected by varying illnesses and conditions which can have an impact on your driving. These include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Heart Disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Parkinson’s Disease
While none of these circumstances or conditions automatically have your family or the state take away your driving privileges, it would be best to take some extra steps to ensure you and/or your loved one’s safety.
Safe Driving Tips for Seniors
Having life of independent living for seniors like yourself means taking on a few extra steps to assure one’s safety. This includes one’s own driving habits and methods. This might include not only how one drives but also what kind of car you use and addressing any issues that might affect seniors like yourself while on the road.
Regarding Senior Health and Driving
Getting regular checks up are a good idea, not just for driving but for your day to day life as well. This includes visiting your optometrist every year. They’ll be able to see if your glasses and/or contact lenses need adjustments of any kind.
Another good idea is to get your hearing checked. Over time, seniors’ hearing tends to fade away, some to the point where they cannot hear the sounds of the road like other vehicles’ horns. If you wear hearing aids, make sure they are in good condition.
Finally, regarding your body’s condition, talk to your doctor to see if your current medications or ailments can influence one’s own driving ability. For example, if you have a history of chronic arthritis, ask if it will impair your ability to drive a vehicle.
Using the Right Car for Senior Driving
If possible, it might be time to trade in your older car for one that might be more suited for seniors like yourself. With the rise in technology and car safety, today’s modern cars are a wonderful choice for seniors.
If anything, try getting a car with an automatic transmission, since it requires less motor skills. Power steering and brakes are now standard in most vehicles, which will require seniors to use less strength and energy to drive. Additionally, ensure that the vehicles lights and windows are clear and functioning properly. Finally, make sure that your car is taken care of regularly through scheduled maintenance.
Driving Defensively for Seniors
Driving safe also means being defensively. Try to think about head and not get distracted by the additions today’s modern vehicles have (like GPS devices, digital music players, etc.) or by the technology of today (like texting or talking on the phone).
Try to practice common safe driving techniques like leaving a good spacing between you and other drivers, pay attention to all intersections, staying with the flow of other drivers, and using common sense regarding speed limits.
Another method of defensive driving is knowing your own limits. If you are uncomfortable driving during the night due to low vision, try to avoid driving at night. If anything makes you uneasy while driving (like highway traffic or bad weather), avoiding them is a good idea. If you need to, plan your driving route to avoid any kind of difficulties.
Alternatives to Driving and Independent Living for Seniors
So maybe there might be a time where you might start driving less or stop driving altogether. If so, it doesn’t mean you have to lose your independence. There are driving alternatives as the situation has been thought up before.
For example, thanks to technology, there are resources like Eldercare Locator, an online resource that helps seniors and people with disabilities find transportation in their area. They should be able to help you find public and private transportation options in your area.
Another alternative is ridesharing. Both major ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber have programs geared towards seniors that provide on-demand and scheduled rides, ensuring transportation and independent living for seniors in their daily lives.
Finally, check and see if your senior residential community offers transportation services. Most communities do and it’s complimentary thanks to your monthly residential payments.
Just because you’re growing in years doesn’t mean independent living for seniors like yourself should taper away. This includes your ability to drive and to go to places that you want to go at any time.