Talking with an Older Adult About Their Fitness for Driving

Sunrise Senior Living  |  December 4, 2019
Talking with an Older Adult about their Fitness for Driving
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The issue of older driver safety is complicated. While some may think age should be the primary determinant in deciding when to hang up the keys, the reality is more complex. An active eighty-year-old may be much safer behind the wheel of a car than a sixty-five-year-old with medical issues.

In honor of Older Driver Awareness Week, celebrated annually during the first week of December, we share a few tips for talking with a senior loved one about their fitness for driving.

Consider the Emotional Issues

The freedom that comes from being able to drive yourself to the store for groceries or to meet a friend for lunch is important at any age. This is especially true for older adults. It represents self-sufficiency at a time when they are often struggling to maintain their independence.

Seniors may fear giving up their car keys because they aren’t sure how they will be able to go where they need to when they need to. Relying on a busy adult child might raise concerns that they will become a burden.

If you suspect a senior loved one needs to give up driving, start researching transportation services. Having a solid list of credible ride-share companies, volunteer transportation programs, and other options will give you and your older loved one peace of mind. It may also help you feel more comfortable initiating a conversation about driving.

Objectively Assessing a Senior’s Driving Skills

While age shouldn’t be the only factor in assessing driving skills, there is undeniable evidence to show it does play a role. Research shows that fatal accidents among older adults begin to climb near the age of 75 and then soar around the age of 80.

Here are a few steps you can take to evaluate an older family member’s fitness for driving:

  • Schedule a physical exam: If your loved one hasn’t had a physical in the last year, schedule an appointment. Their physician can check reflexes, vision, and flexibility, each of which play a role in safe driving.
  • Visually inspect their vehicle: Another way you can assess how safe a senior is driving is to inspect their car. Walk all the way around it to look for scrapes, dents, and broken mirrors. These can all be signs an older driver is bumping into things, possibly without realizing it.
  • Take a ride as a passenger: Instead of always being the driver for your senior loved one, be the passenger a time or two. This gives you an opportunity to assess how well they manage driving-related stress and if they are adhering to the rules of the road. Remember, driving too slowly in traffic can be almost as dangerous as speeding.
  • Provide a self-assessment tool: The American Automobile Association (AAA) created a simple tool senior drivers can use to self-evaluate their skills. Drivers 65 can be downloaded at no cost. The 15-question driving assessment helps older drivers evaluate their personal strengths and weaknesses.
  • Hire a driving professional: If you prefer a more objective, in-person evaluation, hire a professional driving specialist. You can find one near your older loved one’s home by using the American Occupational Therapy Association’s driving specialist database.

Another suggestion to help an older driver feel more confident behind the wheel is to buy a senior-friendly vehicle. Top cars for senior drivers is a quick way to learn more.

Transportation Services at Sunrise Senior Living

If you and your older loved one decide that it’s time to stop driving, it may be time for something else—a move to a senior living community. At Sunrise communities, residents can take advantage of our transportation services. Whether it’s to join an outing to the local shopping center or for a trip to the doctor, you can leave the driving to us.

Call us today at 888-434-4648 to learn more!