It’s one of the more troublesome decisions we must confront in older years, and an extremely delicate subject for adult children to broach with their elderly parents: surrendering the car keys. Driving ourselves, while delivering an intrinsic experience of freedom and independence, can become extremely hazardous due to a number of conditions associated with growing older. And losing that independence for safety’s sake can feel defeating.
Additionally, we must now take into account the current studies that giving up driving may result in both mental and physical decline. This determination points to a vicious circle of declining health leading to the need for elderly drivers to give up the car keys, leading to further health decline due to increased solitude, depression, and less physical activity.
The study, published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, discovered that seniors who relinquished their driving rights were doubly prone to experience worsening depression, decreased physical functioning, and greater decline in cognitive abilities. And much more concerning, those who ceased 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 cases, restricting driving during certain conditions can help ease the transition into surrendering the keys altogether. The senior’s doctor ought to be conferred with first, of course, and with his or her approval, try restricting driving during the nighttime, in poor weather, and in heavy traffic.
Dr. Marian Betz, spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research, stresses the need for senior citizens to remain engaged in their community and to remain as mobile and socially involved as possible. Friends and family are asked to seek out opportunities for their senior loved one to engage in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc.
CareWorks Health Services provides a useful option: safe, reliable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the independence to continue to come and go as they please, while not placing themselves or other people in harm’s way. We are aware of each senior’s preferred itinerary to reach desired destinations, helping the senior to remain in full control over when and where to go. Contact us at (949) 859-4700 to learn more about our Orange County home care services for seniors.