The clock that spells the passage of time doesn’t stop. It doesn’t act kindly as people get older. With this passage of time comes that horrid awareness of being old. Does that mean unproductive? Does it mean invisible? Of course not. What it does mean though is that elderly people may just be lining themselves up to become a statistic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention cite that there are now in excess of 33 million drivers on the road in the United States who are over the age of 65. Of those, 500 elderly people are injured every day of the week and that’s a whole can of worms.
The fact that someone is elderly doesn’t make them incapable of driving safely. However, in the case of impaired judgment, limbs that don’t respond quickly enough and impaired movement, perhaps it’s time for elderly people suffering from any of these to call it quits.
Looking at the way age affects people, it’s fairly clear that there are signs that a senior should watch out for if they drive. These signs include anything health related which may impair their ability to drive. Although driving is seen as a mechanical thing, it’s actually much more involved than that. Roads are places where other vehicles may be unpredictable.
Elderly people don’t always have fast reactions and that’s where the danger starts. Taking their eyes off the road for one second could kill the child they never saw who was about to cross the road. It’s common sense that if there is any kind of impairment, seniors should have a health check. Many don’t. Hearing, eyesight problems as well as the effects of medicines being taken can all affect the senior’s ability to drive.
Eyesight tests and tests on hearing are essential tests to have on a yearly basis. As people age, they may also suffer from cataracts and have periods when it is unadvisable to drive. They may also suffer from glaucoma and find that the light is too harsh. However, that doesn’t mean the end of a driving career. There are special glasses available for people who suffer from this. However, if the problem is untreated, it could cause accidents. Thus, having regular checkups puts the Senior in touch with professionals who know what to do to improve the situation.
Ignoring health problems
There are always those seniors who are in denial and ignore their health problems. These are people who should face up to the fact that age causes impaired mobility and potentially dangerous health conditions which may impair the way they behave behind the wheel of the car. What many of these seniors don’t realize is that there are adaptations to help them to continue to drive safely. Although this doesn’t apply in all cases, it’s certainly worthwhile verifying with a health professional.
The crux of the matter
The question posed by the topic is when should seniors stop driving. The answer is going to be different for each individual as the pattern of old age is unpredictable. It may be worthwhile to think in terms of traffic lights. A red light tells you to stop. In the case of a senior, this means stopping driving sufficiently long to find out what the problem is that impairs the ability to drive. The second light is amber. Amber represents the period of assessment. It’s a time for seniors to face up to their frailty and accept that there may have to be changes in their lifestyle. During this time, it may well be assessed that a simple change of medication will allow them to go back behind the wheel of their car. However, what frightens elderly folks is that they don’t know the answers.
The case of constant vertigo is a question mark that makes them very frightened of their own frailty, and yet this may simply signal that medications need adjustment. This period of assessment has to happen for a senior to know they are safe driving. It signals the need for change. Whether that’s a change of eyeglasses, the addition of a hearing aid or physiotherapy to help them to attain more mobility, chances are that they will be able to continue driving, once they have taken the precaution to pause and assess. The green light represents the knowing. A senior who knows their capabilities can decide based upon fact whether it’s time to stop driving.
These three elements will help seniors to decide. Red to stop, Amber to assess and Green to decide whether they go forward in their lives as drivers or pedestians. Neither one is a failure. It may be inconvenient to have to walk everywhere, but at least with the two previous stages, a senior will know if indeed it’s time to put the car back into the garage and throw away the key, instead of becoming a statistic.