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Senior Driving Safety: When Is It Time to Give Up the Car Keys?

Discussing an Elderly Parent's Ability to Drive a CarIt is among the more difficult decisions we face in older years, and an extremely delicate subject for adult children to initiate with their elder parents: relinquishing the car keys. Driving ourselves, while supplying an inherent experience of freedom and independence, may become extremely unsafe due to a number of variables linked to getting older. And letting go of that independence for sake of senior driving safety can feel defeating.

Now we can add to the dilemma the latest studies that giving up driving can result in both mental and physical decline. This determination points to a vicious loop of declining health resulting in the need to stop driving, leading to further health decline because of further solitude, depression, and less physical activity.

The research, published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, discovered that seniors who surrendered their driving rights ended up being two times as inclined to suffer from intensifying depression, reduced physical functioning, and further decline in cognitive abilities. And even more concerning, individuals who stopped driving were more likely to die within the following 3-5 year time frame.

Senior researcher for the study and founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Guohua Li, makes clear, “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 scenarios, limiting driving during particular conditions can help ease the transition into surrendering the keys altogether. The senior’s medical doctor should be conferred with first, of course, and with his or her approval, try limiting driving in the nighttime, in inclement weather, and in heavy traffic.

Dr. Marian Betz, spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research, emphasizes the need for elderly to remain engaged in their community and to stay as mobile and socially involved as possible. Family are encouraged to look for opportunities for their loved one to take part in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc. 

Endeavor Home Care in San Diego provides a helpful solution: safe, dependable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the freedom to continue to come and go as they wish, without placing themselves or other people in harm’s way. We pay attention to each senior’s preferred schedule to arrive at desired destinations, allowing the individual to remain in full power over when and where to go. Contact us online or call us at (480) 535-6800 to learn more.