The 2019 Older Driver Safety Awareness Week spans from today to Sunday, or December 2 to 6. Bringing attention to different aspects of older people (seniors, or 65+) diver safety is all about acknowledging the mixed bag of facts, considerations, and resources out there at your disposal.
Let’s start with…
1. It is a fact of life that we grow older with each passing day. Increased age brings a number of changes and challenges in our sensory abilities that may affect continued driving capabilities.
2. It is a fact that the population pyramid of our American society is getting wider at the top… heck, in the whole Western world, really! As of 2017, the toll was at 50.9 million people 65 years or older, or 16 per cent of the total US resident population. In the period between 2008 and 2017, this meant a 31% increase. And rising…
3. As we know all too well in South Florida —the US Census Bureau has set the percentage of state population who are 65 years or older at 20.5%, making it the “oldest” state in the Union, well above national statistics in and around 14%— mobility is one of the key factors for the mental and physical health of our elderly, making sure they remain active in the community: visiting, commuting, going about their daily activities, shopping, working, or volunteering. Transportation should not be the barrier to strand them at home.
If you are an older driver, it is important for to start thinking about the many factors that can affect your driving or the conditions that may place undue burden on your capabilities. For example, things like:
a) How is your eyesight? If it’s not tip top, you should maybe consider avoiding night driving altogether or, alternatively, schedule a vision test with a specialist, possibly once a year.
b) Do you have optimal control of your vehicle? Trouble in the physical department, such as looking over your shoulder when changing lanes or moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal, may warrant physical or occupational therapy. Still, the best defensive solution is to always listen to your body before actually stepping into your vehicle. Stiffness, lack of sleep, or heavy medication should sound alarm bells.
c) Are your loved ones growingly concerned about your driving? People who love you may have noticed things you are unaware of. Listen closely, check with your doctor concerning medication, and consider carpooling, walking short distances, or public transportation.
There are also a number of medical conditions that positively affect driving and that you should be aware of. Check with your doctor accordingly. These include but are not limited to:
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Heart disease
• Macular degeneration
• Sleep Apnea or other sleep disorders
Finally, if a caregiver, please consider that older drivers consider driving an integral part of their independence. Please bring up the subject with care and be prepared for defensive reactions.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is one of the main sponsors of the Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. It has set up, for several years now, a list of materials (text and video), conferences, and events which you can check online at:
The 2019 Awareness Week has the following schedule:
Monday: Anticipating Changes That Can Affect Driving. Tips for Planning Ahead.
Tuesday: Family Conversations. Talking Points to Guide the Conversation.
Wednesday: Screening and Evaluations With an Occupational Therapist. The Role opf Occupational Therapy.
Thursday: Interventions That Can Empower Drivers and Families. Equipment That Can Help.
Friday: Staying Engaged in the Community With or Without a Car. Taking Changes in Stride.
Likewise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the United States Department of Transportation, has resources and other reference materials, including videos, PDFs and a host of statistics for your benefit.