It is one of the most difficult decisions we face in older years, and a remarkably delicate issue for adult children to broach with their elder parents: relinquishing the car keys. Driving a vehicle, while supplying an inherent feeling of freedom and independence, can become tremendously risky due to a variety of conditions associated with getting older. And letting go of that independence for safety’s sake can feel defeating.
Additionally, we must now take into account the latest studies that giving up driving may result in both physical and mental decline. This determination leads to a vicious circle of decreasing health ultimately causing the need to give up driving, resulting in even more health decline due to additional isolation, depression, and less physical activity.
The research, publicized by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that seniors who relinquished their driving rights were doubly likely to encounter worsening depression, reduced physical functioning, and increased decline in cognitive abilities. And much more concerning, those who stopped driving were more likely to die during the following 3-5 year period.
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 instances, restricting driving during particular conditions often helps ease the transition into giving up the keys completely. The senior’s medical doctor should be consulted first, of course, and with his or her approval, try restricting driving in the nighttime, in bad weather, and in busier traffic.
Dr. Marian Betz, spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research, emphasizes the need for older persons to stay involved in their community and to stay as mobile and socially engaged as possible. Family are asked to search for opportunities for their senior loved one to be involved in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc.
North River Home Care of the South Shore area, offers a helpful option: safe, dependable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the freedom to continue to come and go as they please, while not placing themselves or others in harm’s way. We pay close attention to each senior’s preferred agenda to reach desired destinations, allowing the individual to remain in full control of when and where to go. Contact us at (781) 659-1366 to learn more.