Do you remember the excitement of passing your driving test and getting behind the wheel by yourself for the first time? Nothing accelerates you faster into adulthood faster than the freedom a license gives you. And nothing makes a person crash faster than having that license taken away. Having a drivers license taken away can make anyone - but especially seniors reported a recent study - feel anxious or depressed, but these days you don't need keys to feel independent.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published a report that reviewed 16 separate studies that focused on medical outcomes of people 55 and older who stopped driving. Dr. Guohua Li of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City explained the findings to Newsmax Health magazine. Five of the studies roughly found that about 91 percent of drivers who had to relinquish their keys were more likely to experience depression like symptoms and had worse overall health reported results from the quality of life surveys. The studies also reported a decline in social health, particularly among women. In extreme cases, driving cessation led to mortality.
"The decision to stop driving is not trivial but has significant implications for the patient's health, well-being and life expectancy," said Dr. Li.
Physically owning a car and being able to drive it correlated with both independence and satisfaction in seniors, explained the study. However safety in driving is going to become a big issue, as the number of drivers ages 65 and older who still drive will increase from 13 percent in 2010, to 20 percent in 2040. Seniors face unique challenges on the road. Because focusing behind the wheel requires multiple skills to work together at once, aging drivers might face difficulty, especially with any age-related conditions that prevent them from being sharp.
The brain and driving
According to Alz.org, your brain has a lot of connections to make when you're doing a big task like driving a car. Different areas of the brain all work at once to take in sensory data, prioritize that information based on if it is a new experience or not and then analyze those options to create an action. Of course, this all happens extremely quickly which is how you determine between casually putting on the gas at a green light, or slamming on the breaks when something unexpected happens. But for those that suffer from dementia, these reactions become more and more delayed as the condition progresses, and as you know when it comes to driving, even half a second of response time can make a difference. There are other factors that go into having a license revoked, like bad eyesight or lack of muscle control, but no matter what, driving is a privilege. Unfortunately, proper elder care means knowing when it's time to turn in the keys.
However, should you have to give up your keys, that doesn't mean the end of your independence, there are plenty of alternatives to get around. Younger generations are willingly starting to give up their cars in exchange for public transportation services, but even more so for ride sharing opportunities. The ease and flexibility that ride sharing services give you are almost more liberating than your drivers license because now you don't have to worry about any car maintenance or parking. These are just a couple of options, but it's most important to realize that losing your license isn't the end of the world.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living