Driving and Older Adults

I tell people who inquire about services offered by Home by Choice that older adults try to avoid two things. First, moving out of the home they’ve grown to love and secondly, someone taking away their ability to drive an automobile.

At Home by Choice, we provide services that allow older adults to remain in their homes and we are happy to transport them on community outings.

I’m reminded of my wife’s grandfather, Shag. Yes, that’s what they called him and I did the same. He wore coke-rimmed glasses, spoke gruffly but always had a smile on his face. As I was visiting I discovered he had taken the mint-like 1950s auto out the garage, left the family farm and went out into the county on joy ride. Returning and then a few days later, it was discovered a few dents on the vehicle. Not only did he bump into something but his license had expired. Needless to say, due to his vision he could not pass the driver’s vision test nor could he answer any test questions (of course, he was answering all the questions correctly until it was discovered my father-in-law was helping him!).

Fast forward to today. As we age, there’s no doubt that driving gets more difficult. Reactions in older adults are slower as our physical and cognitive functions decline. This comes at a time when there are more distractions – GPS, cell phones, digital music players – and more congested roads and aggressive drivers.

The average driver makes about 20 major decisions during each mile driven and often has less than one-half second to react to avoid a potential collision. Research shows senior drivers need significantly more light to see than teen drivers do. Over the years, pupils get smaller and don’t dilate as much in dark conditions, making it harder to see. By age 60, eyes need three times as much light to see as they did at age 20, which is why it is harder to drive at night. Particularly bad is the glare from oncoming cars.

As we get older, chances are greater that we’ll have physical limitations or dementia that can affect driver ability. Memory problems can cause confusion about our location or how to get to our destination. At he same time, medications and chronic conditions can interfere with driving.

Aging is the most common cause of hearing loss, which usually becomes more noticeable after age 50. Hearing loss can be dangerous if you are driving and cannot hear sirens, horns or railroad warnings.

One of the great things about living today is the tremendous advancement of technology. Features that make driving safer, not just for seniors but for everyone, include:

Emergency Response Systems, Smart headlights, Self-parking, Alerts to help distracted/drowsy drivers and controls that are Voice Activated.

There are enhancements today to driving but in the future, we may see autonomous braking and driving and cars talking to each other wirelessly.

But in the meantime, if you or someone you know and love could benefit from our service, we’re here to help.

For more information on senior or homebound care, visit www.InHomebyChoice.com or call (765) 361-0600. Home by Choice has offices in Crawfordsville, Frankfort and Lafayette.