EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 15, 2012

Elder Q&A: Aging may impact driving abilities

Q: Again this week there was a segment on the evening news about older drivers and taking away the keys. Just because I am of a certain age (75 years old) shouldn’t automatically mean I am unsafe behind the wheel of a car. Is there any information available to help seniors remain independent and continue driving?

A: Actually most older drivers are usually safe and conscientious. You are absolutely correct age alone should not be the defining factor on whether or not someone should maintain their legal right to operate a motor vehicle. It is predicted by the year 2030 one in four drivers will be over the age of 65. This is an issue that should be addressed in a positive way to enable older adults to maintain their independence as long as possible.

As a person ages , decline in vision, cognitive functioning and physical changes may impact a person’s driving abilities.

For these reasons it is important for all older adults to routinely do a self-assessment of their health condition, seek appropriate treatment and make adjustments in their driving habits. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has clear recommendations for older drivers, many of which also apply to younger drivers as well. Always use seat belts, this is not only common sense and a safety factor but also the law in many states. It is suggested to limit driving during bad weather and at night. Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility. Review all medications (prescribed and over the counter) with your pharmacist/physician to determine if any of the drugs could create side effects which would impact your driving abilities. Have an annual eye examination and wear glasses or corrective lenses as indicated. Pay attention to any hearing losses and address this issue if it arises.

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