Driving is a complex task, regardless of age, but can become more difficult as you get older. As we age, diminishing motor skills can affect reaction time. Plus our pupils get smaller and we may experience hearing loss. Other health factors such as arthritis, stroke, heart disease, and cognitive disorders may also affect older adults’ ability to drive. The good news is there are many new automotive technologies that have emerged to help improve safety and comfort for older drivers. Older adults can have their vehicle adapted to respond to their specific needs with the help of an occupational therapist.
Smart in-vehicle technologies seem effective only if they are consistent with the driver's capacities. So how do you know if it might be time to hang up your car keys for good? The research shows that the clock-drawing test is a quick and easy way to identify drivers who may be experiencing cognitive changes. However, performance on the clock-drawing test alone is not sufficient to revoke a person's license. Researchers have suggested that this test, alongside other screening mechanisms, be used as part of a first step when assessing fitness to drive in older adults.
Driving enables seniors to remain connected to their communities, maintain social ties, and access needed services, particularly in rural areas lacking public transit. Loss of licensure in older adulthood, can have negative consequences, including depression. While new technologies may allow older adults to stay behind the wheel longer, the mobility and health of older adults must be considered to ensure they have the capacity to operate a vehicle in a safe manner. To read more about driving as you age, view our resources below.