On a recent BrightFocus Chat Safety and the Older Driver, Elin Schold Davis, director of the Older Driver Initiative with the American Occupational Therapy Association, addressed strategies for safe driving and transportation as we age.
One out of every five drivers in America is over 65. For the majority of people, driving is the most familiar and comfortable way to remain connected to their community. But older people face hurdles in retaining their ability to drive safely, which can loosen their ties to their community and negatively affect mental and physical wellbeing. In her discussion with BrightFocus, Davis spoke about shifting road safety strategies to better accommodate the aging driver which benefits everyone.
“One thing I do when I think of challenges and aging is distinguish aging from medical conditions,” Davis told listeners. “Medical conditions, like glaucoma, are common in aging, but let’s not confuse them with the concept of aging. They’re not what you planned for.”
According to Davis, people can work to understand and anticipate those changes so they can work with them to retain their independence on the road. She said it is very important to differentiate between over-emphasizing longstanding bad habits versus identifying new, emerging driving behaviors that indicate a growing loss of skill and ability.
She also covered family strategies to help discuss driving independence. “Family should be their advocates,” she said. “Being willing to tell people what they want to hear, and sometimes what they don’t want to hear based on the best facts, [results in] compassion, and that underlies the whole concept of prevention.”
Davis is encouraged by the auto industry introducing many new features that could help the aging population continue to safely and easily get around. While she acknowledged these advancements, she spoke of the importance of having other transportation options rather than relying on cars alone. She offered new ways of contemplating the cost to ride ratio of public transit and other options when compared to owning a car. “I think everybody – no matter their age or medical diagnoses – should become more transportation savvy,” she said. “Have you thought about having more arrows in your quiver, as they say, so that you [can remain] in charge of being transportation-independent?”
BrightFocus Chats is a free, monthly opportunity to hear from leading experts on a wide range of topics related to age-related vision loss. For more information, visit here.
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