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Driving Gets Riskier As We Age | Generations Home Care
An older woman driving a vintage car.

If life is a winding road, we rarely navigate it under ideal conditions. From the cradle to the grave, we deal with many sharp turns: new jobs, new relationships, new places, and, unfortunately, new health concerns. As we age, our bodies often change in ways that require us to find new solutions. Unfortunately, many of these changes can also make navigating life’s non-metaphorical roads more difficult — or even dangerous. As we discussed in the first part of our series for Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, seniors are especially prone to car accidents while driving. 

Like all of life’s most difficult challenges, getting older is something we adapt to rather than overcome. There are plenty of ways senior drivers can adapt to aging, and the first step is knowing what to look for. By keeping an eye out for changes that might impact your driving, you can be sure to stay behind the wheel safely for as long as possible. 

Aging Symptoms Can Impact Driving

Keeping an eye out for both gradual and dramatic changes to the faculties you need to drive is a big part of staying safe on the road. The physical changes that come with getting older are hard to anticipate. However, they do take a few common forms. 

Common Concerns for Older Drivers:

  • Eyesight. If you can’t see where you’re going, you probably won’t get there safely. By age 65, one in every three people experiences some form of vision loss. Macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy are all common forms of age-related vision loss. Some vision loss can go unnoticed, which means scheduling regular eye exams with your doctor is key to staying safe on the road. 
  • Mobility issues. Joint pain, arthritis, and chronic pain all contribute to a loss of mobility for seniors. While having a car might seem like a great fix to not getting around as easily on foot, the same issues that impact mobility can impair your ability to operate a vehicle. If you can’t quickly turn the steering wheel or step on the brake, you might be setting yourself up for an accident. 
  • Prescriptions. Sometimes the conditions that affect our driving are a side effect of medications. Between 44 and 57 percent of people over the age of 65 take five or more medications, which means many seniors may be juggling multiple side effects. Some medicines may interact when taken together, resulting in entirely new symptoms. Talking to a doctor about what to expect when starting a new prescription is essential for staying safe while driving.
  • Brittle bones. Osteoporosis is a big part of what makes car accidents so dangerous to seniors. Nearly a quarter of all American adults have osteoporosis: a loss of bone density. Weaker bones mean that even a small bump can cause a significant fracture for seniors. Even with safety features in a modern car, a car accident can easily be fatal for a senior with osteoporosis. 

What To Do When Symptoms Cause Concern

If you suspect that these typical aging signs are starting to impact your driving, it’s time to think about options. Regular visits to the doctor are a great way to identify and treat symptoms that might affect driving. Though one in five adults has a cataract, many are surgically reversible. This means that with treatment, seniors can maintain their vision and continue driving safely for longer. Pain medication may ease arthritis and other mobility issues, and a good diet may help keep bones healthy. 

However, there comes the point when even treatable symptoms interfere with your ability to drive. When safety is on the line, you may want to consider hiring an in-home caregiver. Caregivers can take over driving duties to ensure you can still get around or even take over grocery runs, so you don’t have to leave the house. With COVID-19 still a concern, avoiding errands is an excellent way to protect yourself–both from danger on the road and risk from the disease. As well as helping out with the driving, an in-home caregiver is an invaluable resource for seniors suffering from common aging complaints. Caregivers can assist with daily tasks such as cooking or tooth-brushing that aging might make more difficult. 

With a caregiver’s help, you can feel safe and protected whether you’re in your home or on the road. In our final article for our Older Driver Safety Awareness Week series, we will discuss what to do when the time comes for seniors to stop driving entirely. 

About Generations Home Care

Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.

Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

Our Specialty Services Include:

  • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
  • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
  • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
  • Veteran’s connection to care program.
  • Live-in services and couples care.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.

About the author - Josh Friesen

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