Is Taking Away the Car Keys Bad for Senior Health?

senior healthIt is among the more complicated decisions we must confront in older years, and a very sensitive issue for adult children to broach with their elder parents: surrendering the car keys. Driving ourselves, while offering an inherent feeling of freedom and independence can become significantly dangerous due to a number of factors linked to getting older. And surrendering that freedom for safety’s sake can feel defeating.

Added to that is the new dilemma of the current findings that giving up driving can bring about a negative impact on senior health, potentially resulting in both physical and mental decline. This determination points to a vicious loop of decreasing health leading to the need to give up driving, leading to further health decline because of further solitude, depression, and less physical activity.

The study, published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, discovered that seniors who surrendered their driving rights were two times as prone to end up with worsening depression, less physical functioning, and further decline in cognitive abilities. And even more concerning, those who stopped driving were more likely to die within the following 3-5 year time frame.

Senior researcher for the study and founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Guohua Li, points out, “This is a very complex issue. It’s a sensitive balance, and the pros and cons of not driving need to be weighed on a case-by-case basis.”

In some scenarios, decreasing driving during certain conditions will ease the move into surrendering the keys altogether. The senior’s medical professional should be consulted first, of course, and with his or her approval, try limiting driving during the nighttime, in bad weather, and in heavy traffic.

Dr. Marian Betz, spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research, highlights the need for seniors to stay engaged in their community and to stay as mobile and socially involved as possible. Family members are asked to seek out opportunities for their senior loved one to participate in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care offers a useful solution to maximize senior health and safety: safe, reliable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the freedom to continue to come and go as they wish, while not placing themselves or others in harm’s way. We pay close attention to each senior’s preferred itinerary in order to reach desired destinations, allowing the individual to remain in full power over when and where to go. Contact us at 269-224-1683 to learn more about our Kalamazoo home care services.

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