National Wellness Month and Older Drivers
August is National Wellness Month. As individuals age, maintaining wellness becomes increasingly important, which can also affect the ability to drive. We know why older road user safety is important, driving or taking public transportation are ways older adults can stay connected with their communities and maintain independence as they age. Taking proactive steps to improve health and well-being will help keep older adults in the driver’s seat of their transportation future.
The reality is older drivers are among the safest on the roads and older road users are more fragile in the event of a crash. Older drivers and passengers may take longer to heal, and the impact of a crash can have severe consequences on overall health and well-being. Older road users may also face physical and cognitive changes from aging that can affect their driving abilities, including reduced strength, flexibility, and reaction times. Continuing to build healthier habits may help to alleviate some of the physical and mental impacts of aging. Better wellness can keep older adults safer on the roads or in the event of a crash reduce the recovery period.
Regular exercise can help older drivers stay fit to drive. Exercise increases joint flexibility and range of motion, enhances blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, supporting memory and attention, and improves the quality of sleep that can improve energy levels, all of which could help maintain or improve the ability to drive safely according to a 2021 NHTSA study.
Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.
Mental fitness to drive is also important for road safety. Older drivers can practice puzzles and brainteasers, memory exercises, mindfulness or meditation to improve focus, reduce stress, and contribute to a calmer and more focused mindset while driving.
Older adults can talk to their healthcare providers about their continued ability to drive. Healthcare providers can perform assessments and refer the older adult to resources or specialists, who can talk through options for maintaining safety on the road. Doctors and pharmacists can review the medications older adults take and discuss side effects that might make them dizzy, sleepy, or slow their reaction time.
Be sure the older adults in your life are getting their vision and hearing checked once a year.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean giving up activities older adults enjoy. In fact, maintaining social connections can have big health benefits, both mentally and physically, for older adults. Creating opportunities for older adults to volunteer and be of service to the community have immeasurable impacts and give older adults a sense of purpose and connection to the community.
Overall, wellness plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of older road users. By recognizing the fragility of older drivers and engaging in supportive conversations, communities, and individuals can promote their well-being and enable them to maintain their independence.
Traffic safety and wellness for older adults is a shared responsibility, with the goal of enabling them to embrace their future with confidence and security.
Stay involved in older road user safety with ChORUS.