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The Surprising Connection Between Driving and Senior Health

It is one of the most challenging decisions we face in later years, and a delicate issue for adult children to initiate with their elderly parents: relinquishing the car keys. Driving a vehicle, while creating an intrinsic experience of freedom and independence, could become very hazardous due to a variety of variables pertaining to aging. And losing that independence for safety’s sake can feel defeating.

Now we can add to the dilemma the recent findings that giving up driving may harmful to senior health, leading to both mental and physical decline. This determination points to a vicious loop of decreasing health resulting in the need to give up driving, resulting in even further senior health decline due to more isolation, depression, and less physical activity.

The study, publicized by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, discovered that seniors who surrendered their driving rights were two times as prone to experience worsening depression, decreased physical functioning, and increased decline in cognitive abilities. And even more concerning, people who ceased driving were more likely to die during the following 3-5 year time frame.

Senior researcher for the study and founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Guohua Li, explains, “This is a very complex issue. It’s a sensitive balance, and the pros and cons of not driving need to be weighed on a case-by-case basis.”

In some scenarios, decreasing driving during certain conditions can help ease the move into giving up the keys for good. The senior’s medical doctor ought to be conferred with first, of course, and with his or her approval, try reducing driving in the nighttime, in poor weather, and in heavy traffic.

Dr. Marian Betz, spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research, stresses the need for seniors to stay engaged in their community and to keep as mobile and socially involved as possible. Members of the family are asked to find opportunities for their loved one to participate in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc. 

Independence-4-Seniors Home Care of Hinsdale provides a practical choice: safe, reliable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the independence to continue to come and go as they wish, while not placing themselves or others in harm’s way. We are aware of each senior’s preferred agenda to arrive at desired destinations, allowing the individual to remain in full control over when and where to go. Contact us at (630) 323-4665 to learn more.

Posted January 04, 2018
Tags: Depression, senior safety

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