Older Americans Month

Older Americans Month presents an opportunity to plan how to stay safe on the roads as you age. By identifying some of the challenges that come with aging you can plan to safely navigate these changes. Aging can bring impairment to vision, including (but not limited to) cataracts and loss of peripheral vision which can negatively affect driving. Use May as a reminder to visit the ophthalmologist and have your eyes checked. While you’re at the doctor, ask them what you can do to help with driving safety.

In 2018, Older Drivers made up 20 percent of licensed drivers, but 14 percent of all drivers involved in fatal accidents.  This is in part due to the frailty and fragility of older drivers. If you (or a loved one) are an older driver, it’s likely you’ve realized your body isn’t the same as it was in your 20s or 30s. Use this knowledge to decrease your risks through intervention. Interventions may include attending a CarFit event, having a driving assessment, working with Driver Rehabilitation Specialist to identify how you can modify your car for increased safety, learning how your medical diagnosis and medications might impact your driving.

Aging may also bring cognitive impairment. What is cognitive impairment? Cognitive impairment has been defined as a decline in one or more of the following domains: short-term memory, attention, orientation, judgment and problem-solving skills, and visuospatial skills. (DSMMD, 4th ed.) As cognitive skills decline, you, your loved ones, and any medical professionals you’re working with may decide that driving is no longer a safe option. In these cases, there are options to stay active in the community including ride-sharing with friends and family for transportation and learning about ride services in your community (including those offered by faith-based organizations and community services).

As you age, it’s possible to learn how to make your car “fit” you to increase safety. Using CarFit can teach you the safety features already in your car or an assessment with a driving rehabilitation specialist can help you identify adaptive technology you can purchase for your car and how to use your car safely as you age. This may include getting a wider review mirror or getting a back cushion to improve your posture as you drive.

Before Older Americans Month comes to an end, make appointments for your next steps. If you’ve seen a doctor, learned how to decrease your risks through interventions, and learn how to make your car “fit” you, make appointments for beyond Older Americans Month with Driving Rehabilitation Specialists or Occupational Therapists to learn what else you can do to safely drive your car. Learn more about the signs of when to make changes with our Transportation Planning Tool.

One final step to take during Older Americans Month is to learn about the public transportation available in your area, so when you stop driving, you can stay active in the community.