Helping older adults stay behind the wheel safely

For many older adults, a vehicle is not only a way to get around but also a sign of their independence, enabling them to maintain their social and community activities. This is an important factor in maintaining quality of life. As we age, changes in health and medical conditions can affect driving ability, compromising safety on the road. So, how do you determine whether you are fit to get behind the wheel, and is it possible that training and technologies can help improve your performance?

Interventions to increase capacity
Through better education, physical exercise programs and cognitive training, evidence has shown that a driver’s performance can be improved. These interventions can enhance road safety, perception of road safety and their own capabilities as well as actual driving performance. 

Smart, in-vehicle technologies can improve safety and comfort
Automotive technologies are constantly evolving and can help older adults drive more safely. Older adults can work with an Occupational Therapist to have their vehicle adapted to meet their specific needs and receive training on the optimal and safe use of new technologies in their vehicle.

Assessing driving ability
Problems with older adults' driving have been linked to changes in their medical and functional status. This means that problems with driving are not related to normal aging changes but likely other health issues. The key issue is to adequately assess when there are potential problems that might place people at risk when they are driving. Currently, there is no single test that has been developed that can determine if a driver is 'cognitively-unfit' per se. However, there is evidence that performance on certain assessment tools, such as the Clock-Drawing Test, can flag those drivers who require a more in-depth evaluation.

When it comes to driving, it is not your age that determines your abilities, it is your health. Driving enables older adults to remain connected to their communities, maintain social ties, and access needed services, particularly in rural areas lacking public transit. Helping older adults stay safe on the road is just as important as ensuring they maintain their independence by driving as long as (safely) possible. Explore this topic in more depth by reading our resources below.

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DISCLAIMER: Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of these blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website