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How Can Driving Help Seniors Stay Mentally Healthy?

Seniors DrivingIt is ironic that seniors often get a bad rap for their driving skills. Seniors are safe drivers compared to other age groups - according to non-profit organization Senior Driving AAA, since they tend to make responsible decisions, including using seat belts, refraining from talking on the phone while driving, and respecting speed limits. Indeed, one study undertaken at Columbia University indicates that there is one reason why older adults who have good eyesight and reflexes might consider driving as long as they can: their mental health can go downhill when they stop taking to the wheel!

Driving Cessation and Depression

The researchers noted that around 82% of American seniors continue to have a valid license and drive. After seniors stopped driving, many faced a doubly high risk of depression, which in turn led to impairments in cognitive and physical functioning. Researchers stated that for older drivers, taking to the wheel is more than just a privilege; it is an important part of daily life and it symbolizes independence and freedom. Of course, when cognitive and physical functions decline, it is important to stop driving, but so long as seniors continue to pass any required exams, they might consider driving as a way to maintain the many benefits it brings.

Feeling More Confident Behind the Wheel

If you are a senior and you wish to maintain your confidence levels behind the wheel, the first step is to inquire about state driving laws, to see which tests you may be required to complete. Some states require eye and driving tests on a yearly basis, while others require checks every five years. From around the age of 65 onwards, most states ask drivers to renew their licenses in person rather than online. In addition to completing the required test, you should also select a vehicle that matches your needs, and is safe and secure. Opt for a vehicle with safety features such as anti-lock braking, tire pressure monitoring, automatic emergency braking, side airbags, etc. Many newer cars let you know if you are driving over a line, which is a great way to stay in lane and steer clear of drivers in faster lanes.

Knowing When to Stop

Some conditions - including vision problems like cataracts and those requiring medications that may have side effects, may indicate that driving isn’t a good idea. The American Academy of Neurology notes that signs of decreased ability on the road include near-accidents, having a chronic condition like arthritis, and having traffic citations. Your doctor is the best person to let you know if driving might not be suitable for you anymore.

Driving for as long as you can, when you are in good shape, is ideal, as it is an important part of autonomy and independence for seniors. Because older drivers tend to be frailer, it is also important to know when it is time to cede control of the wheel to someone else. There are many arrangements you can make if you decide to stop driving. Public transport and the help of family and friends can go a long way towards ensuring you do not lose out if by any chance you decide to start enjoying the road as a passenger.

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