As a senior now living in an independent living community, one of the things you may enjoy about your new home is having the freedom to come and go as you wish. If you still drive, you're able to enjoy adventures and outings the same way you did before moving from your previous home, only now you don't have to deal with many of the chores and responsibilities of maintaining that home.
If you're still driving and are 65 or older, now is a good time to review some of the things you can do to stay safer behind the wheel. Your body is changing, and age can impact the way you act while driving. By taking just a little time to review safe driving tips, you may be able to prevent a serious crash and stay in the driver's seat longer.
If you're a senior driver, you should know that there are risks associated with being an older driver.
Did you know that there were around 48 million licensed drivers age 65 and older in America as of 2020? Of those drivers, around 7,500 ended up in the emergency department because of crashes.
Statistically, drivers who are 70 or older have a greater chance of getting into a fatal crash than younger drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are several reasons seniors may be at a greater risk of crashing, according to the National Institute on Aging. Many of these have to do with physical changes to your body as you age.
For example, stiff joints and muscles are more common among seniors. They, along with arthritis, can make it physically harder to drive. To help reduce the risk of a crash and become a safer driver, consider speaking with your medical provider. There are now arthritis treatments and other therapies that may help you drive more comfortably.
Strength is another issue to consider as you get older. As your strength decreases, you may not be as able to control your vehicle. How can you reduce the risk of a crash? Consider finding a vehicle that has power steering, an automatic transmission and other benefits that make driving less laborious.
It's normal to slow down a bit as you get older, but this can affect your reaction times. Your reflexes may not be as quick as they once were, so you do need to slow down and plan ahead when driving.
To prevent a crash, try to leave more space between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Many seniors avoid driving in heavy traffic, too, to prevent stop-and-go issues that require quick reflexes.
As you get older, your vision changes. You may find you're having a harder time reading street signs or recognizing where you are because the things around you seem blurry. You may have a tougher time tracking moving objects or have much more trouble seeing in the evening or night hours.
It's worth getting checked out for vision problems, like glaucoma and cataracts. You may also need a change in your prescription for glasses or contacts. See your eye doctor annually, and limit driving at night or when you find it hardest to see clearly.
Dementia may not be on your radar, but it's something that impacts many adults. In the earlier stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, it can be harder to make decisions or remember where you are.
While many people still drive in the early stages of these conditions, it's important to keep in close contact with your doctor, family and friends to know when it's time to stop driving for your own safety.
Hearing, like vision, may change as you get older. You might not be able to hear the noises inside or outside your vehicle as well as you did in the past.
To make sure you're hearing clearly, have hearing examinations at least once a year after you turn 60. If you need hearing aids, use them when you're driving to be sure you're hearing everything going on around you.
Finally, remember that your medications could impact how you drive. Review them with your medical provider to be sure you're on the right dosages and to be aware of side effects that could change the way you react or drive your vehicle.
As an older adult, driving can remain a rewarding freedom. Just keep in mind that your body is changing and you may need to adjust when or how you drive to minimize the risk of a crash in the future.