Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Driving with Dignity

Is your loved one experiencing diminished driving skills? Are they becoming lost in familiar places, bumping into curbs, mailboxes or scraping the sides of the garage when they back out? Have they been involved in a minor parking lot fender-bender or do they complain about being honked at? According to Matt Gurwell, Founder and CEO of Keeping Us Safe, the most important thing to remember is that the time to start addressing your concerns is now, before "concerns" turn into "tragedies".

Although people age at different rates and some 75 year olds are more alert than other 60 year olds, there comes a point in every seniors life when it's time to give up driving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, although older drivers tend to travel fewer miles than younger drivers, the "per mile traveled" crash rates start increasing for drivers 70 and older and increase markedly after age 80.

Here are just a few factors that affects a seniors ability to drive:
  • Vision: Good eyesight is one of the most important factors related to safe driving, but unfortunately it's also one of the biggest changes that occur with aging. Seniors' eyes are less sensitive to light and take longer to refocus when they change from near to far distance.
  • Hearing: Hearing also deteriorates as we age. In face, 33 percent of people over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss and 75 percent of those over age 75 have some hearing loss. Impaired hearing is dangerous because seniors can have trouble hearing horns and sirens.
  • Cognitive Hearing: Cognitive ability also decreased as we age. It takes longer for seniors to process information and to make decisions. In addition, their attention spans can be shorter and they might have trouble multi-tasking. Driving a car is a complex process that requires full concentration.

Giving up driving has emotional, logistical and physical consequences. Seniors who don't drive tend to feel more isolated and depressed than their peers. In addition, studies suggest that seniors who stop driving end up in assisted living facilities sooner than those who still drive. Thus, helping seniors make this important decision means enlisting the full support of their caregivers and family members. The decision to stop driving shouldn't be rushed - but neither should it be delayed.

Matt Gurwell, Founder and CEO of Keeping Us Safe will be hosting an educational webinar for our CSAs on this topic next month. Matt will discuss his recently released workbook "Beyond Driving with Dignity: the workbook for families of older drivers" and how it seeks to provide families (or professionals working with seniors) with a "roadmap to success" in their quest to overcome the challenges of an older driver's safety. To learn more about Keeping Us Safe, please visit www.keepingussafe.org or contact Matt at 877.907.8841.

Register for this educational webinar at www.csa.us/UpcomingEvents to help your family identify and implement alternative means of transportation for the retiring driver.

blog posting by Society of Certified Senior Advisors