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There are currently no laws regulating the maximum age of which a person can still legally operate a car. So if someone lives to 150 years old, they could technically be a legal driver. But just because someone is allowed to drive, does that mean they should?
With older age comes a host of issues that can hinder safe driving, like fading eyesight and slower reaction times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fatal crash rates had a noticeable uptick starting at age 70 and were highest among those 85 and older.
Ken Jenson, owner of Amada Senior Care in Colorado Springs, says his biggest driving concern is seniors with dementia.
“I talked to a woman whose husband has dementia and she mentioned he went to the donut shop,” Jenson recalls. “I assumed that a caregiver drove, but no, she remarked that he did, because he always drives to the donut shop. Now how do you let someone who can’t remember to brush their teeth drive a car?”
Jenson consults with many seniors and their families, helping solve problems that arise with older age, such as driving. It’s tough telling a senior “no,” Jenson says, but by knowing the answers to common questions you can make it a lot easier to broach the topic.
1. What are the rules regulating driving and older age?
Laws vary from state to state, but most require shorter renewal periods for those over a certain age. In Illinois, drivers under the age of 80 are required to renew every four years but that goes down to two years for people up to 86. After that seniors have to renew every year. Several states also require that older drivers renew licenses in person and many require passing a road test and even approval from a doctor.
For a comprehensive look at laws state by state, see this recap by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
2. What precautions can we take to ensure safe driving?
Even if a senior is deemed fit to drive, practicing good habits can help prevent any unnecessary accidents or mishaps. Encourage parents or older loved ones to stay in shape with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Make sure to maintain healthy eyesight with regular once-a-year checkups, and, if vision is worse at night, restrict driving to the day.
3. But how do I know if it’s really time for someone to turn in the keys?
While in-between cases certainly exist, there are a few critical warning signs for when it’s time to hang up the keys. That includes seniors who have several close calls with near-accidents or crashes, seniors whose reaction times are much slower than normal and older adults with dementia.
4. Who do I turn to if mom or dad won’t listen to me?
Most seniors want to drive for as long as they can, so it’s never easy to convince someone it’s time to stop. Losing the ability to drive, Jenson says, strikes a chord to many seniors that they’re about to lose independence.
The best way to get through to a senior who’s hesitant, according to Jenson, is to “let the doctor be the bad guy” if it’s a health concern, or turn to a minister or pastor. In dire cases, you can also take safety concerns directly to your local DMV.
5. How can seniors still feel independent when they’re no longer able to drive?
Not being able to drive shouldn’t lessen a senior’s sense of independence, but it often does. If you’re able to, make an effort to provide transportation whenever possible. Better yet, hiring a caregiver who can transport mom or dad to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments or to their favorite donut shop is a great way to make sure loved ones don’t feel trapped at home.
Find the best caregiver for your loved one with the help of a great home service provider like Amada Senior Care in Colorado Springs. For more information about services visit amadacolorado.com or call (719) 377-9121.
This article was produced for and sponsored by Amada Senior Care. It is not a product of or affiliated with KOAA News 5.