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Monday, October 18, 2021

Cruising toward Health Aging

Did you know that there are over 25 million licensed drivers in the United States aged 70 years of age and older? Are you one of the 25 million? Do you have a family member who is one of the 25 million?  We recognize that older drivers bring a lot of experience and wisdom with them when they slide into the driver’s seat.  However, as we age it is important to consider our health when getting behind the wheel.  As we get older some individuals develop impairments that can affect their ability to safely drive.  Issues with vision, reflexes, flexibility, hearing, and memory can all cause increased difficulty when driving. 

Many drivers, as they age, will limit their driving to times and places in which they feel most comfortable.  They may choose not to drive after dark, or choose times of day to drive when the traffic has lessened.  These self-imposed rules will make some older drivers feel safer behind the wheel and could potentially lead to a reduction in accidents.

However, some older drivers will not choose to self-regulate and will continue to drive when they maybe shouldn’t.  This can cause a lot of concern for the family members and friends of these individuals.  For family member here are a few red flags that you should be on the lookout for if you have an older loved one who is still driving:

  • Misjudging space between other cars
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Confusion that leads to getting lost
  • Complaints from other drivers
  • Finding new dents/scratches in the car
  • Crashing or almost crashing (fender benders)
  • Slow response times to changes in traffic
  • Physical limitation that makes it difficult to turn or move around.

If you become concerned about your ability to safely drive, please reach out to your healthcare provider BEFORE giving up your keys.  Many issues can be solved or controlled with the use of medications or therapies that would allow you to continue to remain independent behind the wheel. 

If your loved one’s driving ability is beginning to concern you, again start with a visit to their healthcare provider.  If the situation can’t be resolved or controlled, then it possible that you may need to consider a family meeting with your loved one to discuss your concerns.

Please remember that age alone should never be the sole indicator of an individual’s ability to drive.  Drivers aged 65 years and older represent a wide range of abilities. No individual should have his or her driving privileges determined solely on their age.  The Oklahoma Healthy Aging provides a one-hour presentation on “Older Drivers Safety” that is free and available to present currently in a virtual format.  If you are interested in additional information or would like to schedule a presentation for your group, please feel free to email devon-murray@ouhsc.edu.

Devon Murray
Devon Murrayhttp://www.ohai.org
Devon Murray is the Education Director with the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative (OHAI). OHAI is a sponsored program of the Section of Geriatric Medicine within the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center. OHAI office in Enid provide community education to older adults, caregivers and healthcare providers across 16 counties in Northwestern Oklahoma.

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