As people age, their reactions slow, they may experience more fatigue, and they can have difficulty completing everyday tasks. This is why about 52% of people who turn 65 will need some level of long-term care services. And a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study has found that some of these factors, including increased fatigue and poor physical functioning, are factors leading older adults to limit their driving.
Researchers at Columbia University were commissioned by the AAA Foundation to look into eight different factors that could help determine how changes in health could impact driving mobility in seniors. The factors included sleep disturbance, pain interference, depression, fatigue, anxiety, physical functioning, participation in social activities, and pain intensity.
Among the eight different factors, the research found that fatigue and poor physical functioning were the two most common reasons older adults reported decreased driving time.
According to Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Older adults who give up the keys are more likely to suffer from depression than those who remain behind the wheel. It is important that we find ways to keep older drivers in good physical health in order to extend their mobility.”
Fortunately, research has shown that staying active can help older drivers improve their health and stay behind the wheel for a longer period of time. The right type of exercise can help seniors improve their driving abilities and help them with basic tasks like braking, parking, steering, and checking their blind spots.
AAA recommends that older adults participate in regular stretching to improve their flexibility. And the CDC says older adults should try to get around 2.5 to five of moderate intensity exercise every week to keep them in good health. Exercises senior citizens participate in should focus on balance and muscle strengthening.
Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research, explained, “Some decline in physical fitness is inevitable as we age. But, research shows that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to produce positive results. You can spread out the time you spend being physically active over the course of your day and week. A few minutes at a time can be sufficient. Simple steps to keep active can keep you driving safely for longer.”
While it’s true that pickup trucks accounting for 16.4% of U.S. auto sales, there is generally a decline in auto purchases among senior citizens. But when seniors focus on improving their physical, mental, and social health, they can stay behind the wheel longer.
AAA even offers programs and resources dedicated to helping older adults keep their driving skills sharp and prevent accidents, which can be found at www.seniordriving.aaa.com.