Knowing how to drive is more than just a skill. Driving allows an individual the freedom to travel to locations that, many a time, are not accessible via public conveyances. Apart from being a necessity, driving as an activity can be therapeutic for many. People go on long drives to unwind and relax; it brings a sense of joy and self-confidence.
However, as we age, our driving abilities change somewhat. With the declining musculoskeletal system, motor control, auditory and vestibular system, and vision, driving becomes a complex task. But it is to be understood that ageing does not mean an elderly shall stop driving altogether. Many older adults continue to drive well even in their 80’s!
With proper safety and precautionary measures in place, driving a car is as easy as any other day-to-day activity for the elderly.
1. Get a physical health assessment done
This is one of the most important car-driving tips. Sometimes, the entire musculoskeletal system undergoes certain changes with ageing. In simple words, stiff joints and muscles become a common age-related health issue for many elders. In such a scenario, getting checked for your stiffness and pain, and other joint and muscle-related problems is one of the essential car-driving tips for proper steering control. By following this driving tip, turning around corners and manoeuvring safely will be a lot easier, as good joint and muscle strength and flexibility are required to turn the steering wheel at the right time, in the right momentum. Having automatic transmission can make driving a car easy and simpler for the elderly with joint and muscle problems.
Further, an elderly person must have a fitness routine to maintain his/her strength and flexibility. Before everything else, getting a go-ahead from a general physician is one of the essential safety tips for driving.
2. Get regular vision and hearing tests done
Driving with eye problems such as farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism, and presbyopia, plus gradual loss of hearing in one or both ears can be extremely risky. Thus, one of the most important safety tips while driving would be to get regular vision and hearing tests scheduled. Also, all individuals with vision problems should drive during the day and avoid driving at night.
Elderly folks with hearing problems, on the other hand, are advised to drive with their hearing aids on while maintaining a safe distance from other cars on the road. This is one of the most common safety tips while driving and one must adhere to it.
3. Check the medications
Driving must be avoided if an individual is on medications. That’s because some medications may cause drowsiness and light-headedness, and driving in such a condition can be risky. Elders are often on medications that cause muscle relaxation, which in turn, may cause slow reflexes. As a part of essential safe driving tips, it is always advised to pay attention to the drugs and medications prescribed. Read the labels carefully for side effects and warnings.
It is sensible to avoid driving if you are on any sort of medication that may cause even the slightest alteration to any of your senses. This tip is, especially, useful for the elderly when driving on the highway where being vigilant and attentive is all the more crucial.
Assuring a Safer Driving Experience
With the three abovementioned tips taken care of, here are some good driving tips that the elderly should follow: -
1. Get proper driving lessons
This is one of the most important safe driving tips. Before an elderly person gets behind the wheel, he/she must learn all the essential car driving techniques. Learning from professional driving instructors is advised here as they will share valuable four-wheeler driving tips, along with tips for a long drive in a car, the right way to tuning the car around the corners while driving, and also car steering control tips. Driving will become easier and safer for older adults if they get proper training for it.
2. Accompany a senior
Although this is not possible to follow each time an older adult drives, but whenever possible, accompany them. Just to be sure that they are driving safely and responsibly. You can even go for elderly care services where a caregiver can accompany the elderly, every time they want to drive.
3. Do not drive if drowsy
Driving is not advised if an elderly person has not slept properly and is sleep-deprived. It is extremely important to stay alert while driving.
4. Avoid distractions
Do not use cell phones, eat, or listen to music with the earphones plugged in while driving. It is important to pay attention to the road ahead.
5. Avoid unknown routes
Forgetting routes is a natural occurrence for anyone. However, in older adults, forgetting places and routes is rather frequent and thus, it is advised to stay on regularly accessed routes. Also, if possible, make use of automated navigation systems.
6. Gear up for the drive
If you wear glasses and hearing aids, wear them while driving as well. Also, if you have bladder conditions, wearing adult diapers and carrying extras would be wise. Carry all the essential medications, if you have any. Do keep an emergency number handy.
Driving can be an immensely gratifying and joyous activity and ageing must not put a stop to it. With a little care and caution and these driving tips, the elderly can enjoy driving as well.