As we age, it is common that our driving abilities will change. In addition to understanding traffic laws and road signs, physical changes that occur during the natural aging process can make operating a vehicle more challenging. Fortunately, by incorporating safe driving tips and reducing risk factors, many older drivers can continue to drive safely long into their senior years.
Schedule Regular Hearing and Vision Tests
As part of the aging process, the senses tend to decline. This includes vision and hearing, which can be problematic for older drivers. When hearing is compromised, senior drivers may not be able to hear an approaching train or emergency vehicle. Vision problems can make it more difficult to drive at night or see clearly, and common vision problems related to age like glaucoma and cataracts can make this even more difficult.
Stay Physically Active
By staying physically active, seniors can improve their flexibility and strength. This can help to make checking blind spots and turning the steering wheel easier. If you are a senior citizen and are looking for ways to incorporate physical activity into your day, try walking, stretching, or simple strength training exercises. Be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
Before getting into your vehicle, prepare for your drive. Plan your route so that you don’t need to read directions while driving. If you will be using GPS, enter your destination before you begin your travels, and if you need directions, call ahead of time rather than trying to use your cell phone while driving.
Get Enough Sleep
It is essential to get enough sleep in order to drive well. If you are tired, your concentration could be seriously impaired. If you find that you are not getting enough sleep, try to change your nighttime routine or discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Drive in Good Conditions
Certain conditions may make it easier for senior citizens to drive, such as good weather and adequate sunlight. You may also feel more comfortable driving in familiar areas on quiet roads, so plan to avoid traffic congestion. During bad weather or times of poor visibility, postpone your trip until conditions are more favorable.
Manage Your Health Conditions
It is important to work with your physician to manage any health conditions that may impact your ability to drive, including seizures or diabetes. It is also essential that you know your medications and possible side effects that can occur, such as dizziness or drowsiness, as these side effects may impact your ability to drive safely.
While driving may become more challenging with age, it doesn’t mean that you have to hang up your keys. By following these tips, you can continue to drive safely and maintain your independence for as long as possible.
Our counselors and RNs at Partners in Healthcare are available to talk with you about your in-home care needs including how to reduce caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. We are a senior care agency providing elder care in Orlando, 407-788-9393.
Hank Charpentier, MBA, MA, BSB, Certified Senior Adviser