The holidays are a great time to bring up a loved one’s driving safety. Waiting until an accident happens can leave the driver feeling as if he or she needs to defend themselves. Planning ahead is the most successful way to safely maintain lifelong community mobility and independence.
“Just as we plan for our financial futures, we need to plan for our transportation futures as we age,” says Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, CDRS, project coordinator of AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Initiative. “Respecting the physical, cognitive, and sensory changes that come with age may require adjustments in driving patterns, vehicle equipment, or a skills refresher, but do not have to mean giving up the keys and living in isolation without access to transportation.”The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) along with AAA, AARP Driver Safety, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Center for Senior Transportation (NCST), and other organizations are raising awareness of ways to keep older drivers safe on the road through AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (Dec. 5-9, 2016).
As baby boomers enter the over 65 age bracket at an alarming rate (10,000 each day), the concern for older drivers’ safety and independence is greater now than at any time in our history. Adults 65 and older make up more than 16% of all licensed drivers, nationwide. And the numbers are growing as baby-boomers age. By 2040, it is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will be 70 or older.
The thought of completely giving up the keys can trigger anxiety about loneliness and isolation, so it’s important for older drivers and their families to understand the many steps between noticing an issue and giving up driving completely. Planning ahead can prevent awkward conversations following an incident or accident, and can be empowering.“When families and older adults plan ahead for community mobility, they have the most choices and the most power,” says Davis.
Davis suggests using everyday occupations as catalyst for the conversation with a loved one. For example, a discussion about getting groceries into the home can place a more positive spin on the topic of mobility and help diminish the dependence on driving a vehicle. In this example, a careful look at options such as grocery delivery or moving to a place that the older adult can safely walk to the grocery store provides options rather than taking independence away. Occupational therapists certified in driver rehabilitation offer drivers an individualized evaluation to explore the range of solutions to stay on the road safely and confidently.
Want to chat with an expert about planning ahead for community mobility? Join our Twitter chat from 3-4 p.m. EST on Monday, Dec. 5. Follow #ODSAWchat and learn about safe driving, alternatives to driving, and more from a panel of transportation and aging experts fro across the U.S. Also, follow #ODSAW16 for constant information about safe community mobility.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 213,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting professional and educational standards, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.