15 Sep How The Aging Process Impacts Driving Ability
How The Aging Process Impacts Driving Ability
Millions of Americans get behind the wheel every day to pick up groceries, drive to work, and take children to soccer practice. For most adults, driving is so commonplace that it does not receive a second thought. However, for many seniors, driving is a source of concern.
The normal aging process impacts many physical abilities, which can make driving safely more difficult. Over time, it may become necessary for some older adults to limit or stop driving. It’s important to note that there is no age at which driving automatically becomes unsafe. Instead, each senior adult must work with their doctors and family members to consider the impacts of the aging process on their own bodies and determine their own ability to drive safely.
As the body ages, the joints in the neck, hands, arms and legs may stiffen. This may make it more difficult to turn to check traffic, to grasp the steering wheel and to press the gas and brake pedals. In addition, the aging process can cause changes to vision and hearing, both of which should be in peak condition for driving. As the peripheral vision becomes less effective, it becomes more difficult to see other cars, or pedestrians, on the road.
However, changes in attention span and reaction times may be of greater concern. The aging process often shortens the attention span and makes it more difficult to do multiple things at once. In addition, senior adults may experience slower reaction times. When the amount of time between seeing a hazard on the road and being able to respond to it increases, driving becomes unsafe.
It is always a difficult decision for senior adults to stop driving. Not only is driving oneself convenient, it also signifies independence. Giving up a driver’s license may mean that a senior no longer has easy access to medical care, groceries or social interaction. But the psychological impact of no longer being able to plan their own schedule or go where they want may be a larger concern.
There are steps that seniors and caregivers can take to ease the transition. Some seniors may find that while there are some driving situations that are inadvisable, they can still drive during the day on familiar roads. Eliminating night driving, busy highways and unfamiliar areas may provide a compromise that is both safe and offers independence. Another option may be an assisted living facility, such as Windemere Park of Oakland located in Troy, which provides easy access to transportation. With scheduled outings and easy access to doctors and other services, many seniors may find that they prefer the benefits that an assisted living community provides.