From the minute we pass our driver’s test and get our license, we can’t wait until our parents hand over the keys to the family car. To us, driving means more than just transportation. It means freedom, independence, and self-reliance.

Now, many years later, it may once again be time to ask your parents or other senior loved ones to hand over the car keys.

This time, it’s for their safety. But to them, it means a lot more.

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the number of drivers 65 and over continues to increase. It’s estimated that 81% of the more than 39 million seniors in this age group are still behind the wheel. Many are able to continue to drive safely, but others are not.

What Happens When Seniors Stop Driving?

For many, the decision to stop driving contributes to a number of social and physical conditions. The loss of independence and freedom often creates significant social and psychological issues such as:

  • Diminished productivity and loss of interest in outside activities
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Accelerated decline in cognition
  • Greater tendency to be admitted to a long-term care facility

Being forced to rely on others for transportation often makes seniors feel frustrated or embarrassed. So, many seniors simply refuse to quit driving, no matter how many close calls they’ve had or how compromised their physical or mental capabilities may have become.

How To Know When It’s  “Time”

There are many factors to consider when making the decision to encourage - or in some cases insist - your senior loved one to quit driving. As we age, there is an overall decline in coordination, flexibility and strength, all of which contribute to greater risks behind the wheel. Fatal crash rates increase sharply in drivers over age 70 because hearing and visual acuity gradually decreases and their reflexes become slower. They may insist that their driving is “just fine.” They may be approaching the time when driving is becoming dangerous for them, and the public at large. It’s important to recognize the warning signs:

  •  If they have been issued two or more traffic tickets in the past two years, this could be a predictor of diminishing skill behind the wheel.
  • Or, if they have been involved in two or more crashes or “near misses” in the past year, it’s important to re-evaluate their safety on the road.

Confidential Screening Tool Just for Senior Drivers

AAA has developed a free online assessment and screening tool made especially for senior drivers. It’s design to measure the mental and physical abilities that are necessary for safe driving. To access this important tool, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com. The results of this screening may help you and your senior loved one decide if, or when, it’s time for them to hand over the keys for good.

Need A Lift? Call Seniors Helpers of the Lehigh Valley

Senior Helpers of the Lehigh Valley can help seniors make the difficult transition from driving to riding. As part of our companion care program, we can provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, weekly grocery shopping, outings to the mall, and more. Our customizable care options range from daily companion care to specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Ask us how we can help. Call 610-770-2036 to speak to one of our senior care experts.

 




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