HEALTHY LIVING — Knowing when to tap the brakes on senior drivers

Published 12:08 am Thursday, November 30, 2023

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As we age, there are a lot of changes going on with our bodies that we simply must make adjustments in our lifestyle to accommodate.

Arthritis, which is common among older adults, might affect our ability to drive. Our joints may get stiff, and our muscles may weaken.

Stiff joints or weak muscles also can make it harder to move quickly. These changes can make it more difficult to turn your head to look, turn the steering wheel quickly or brake safely.

As you get older, your reflexes will get slower, and you will likely not react as quickly as you did in the past. You might find that you have a shorter attention span, making it harder to do two things at once.

Loss of feeling or tingling in your fingers and feet can make it difficult to steer or use the foot pedals. Parkinson’s disease or limitations following a stroke can make it no longer safe to drive.

Eyesight often changes as you get older. It might be more difficult to see people, things, and movement outside your direct line of sight.

It may take longer to read street or traffic signs or even recognize familiar places. At night, you may have trouble seeing things clearly. Glare from oncoming headlights or street lights can be a problem.

Depending on the time of the day, the sun might be blinding. Eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, as well as some medicines, can also cause vision problems.

Our hearing also changes, making it harder to notice horns, sirens, or even noises coming from your own car. Hearing loss can be a problem because these sounds warn you when you may need to pull over or get out of the way.

Do you take any medicines that make you feel drowsy, lightheaded or less alert than usual?

Do any of the medicines you take have a warning about driving?

Many medications have side effects that can make driving unsafe. Look for warning labels on your prescription bottles and pay attention to how these drugs may affect your driving.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, some people are able to keep driving. But, as memory and decision-making skills become more difficult, they need to stop driving.

People with dementia often do not know they are having driving problems. Family and friends need to monitor the person’s driving ability and take action as soon as they observe a potential problem, such as forgetting how to find familiar places like the grocery store or even their home.

Work with the doctor to let the person know it’s no longer safe to keep driving. This is a difficult task to undertake, but one that cannot be delayed.

Personally, I am not drive able to drive more than short distances after dark anymore due to vision problems. Yes, it does limit my ability to get around, but I have great friends and family that feel comfortable driving at night.

Take a good hard look at your abilities, do any of these scenarios sound familiar. I know it is hard to give up any independence by allowing others to help you.

Please, consider your and the safety of others, when any of these issues arise. Listen to your loved ones. They truly care about you.

I wish you a long and healthy life.

Jody Holton writes about health for Orange Newsmedia. She can be reached at