Mature driving – stay behind the wheel longer

Margaret Brackett - Contributing Columnist

The sense of freedom and independence that comes with driving is as important at 65 as it is at 16. But driving skills may start to falter as we age, an issue many people choose to ignore. We all seem to be in denial about driving in our older years. No one wants to give it up.

“The good news is that you may not have to, says Lisa Kappust, a social worker at Harvard affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Aging may effect vision, hearing, coordination, thinking visuospatial skills. Declining thinking skills may cause you to get confused in heavy traffic or at an intersection or lost on the way home. Impaired coordination or slow reaction time may mean you can’t stop in time if a car cuts in front of you on the road.

Other aspects of aging also can compromise the ability to drive. For example, arthritis of the hands can make it hard to grip a steering or step on a gas pedal or a neurolcondition such as Parkinson’s disease can affect the ability to quickly move hands and feet. Medication side effects and interactions may also affect your driving.

You my not be able to access your driving ability on your own.

“Your age and health condition are not enough to determine if you are okay to drive. It requires an individual assessment of your skills. Says Kappust. She developed the Drive Wise program 17 years ago to help drivers overcome weaknesses behind the wheel.

How do these programs work? Some like DriversWise takes a team approach with social workers, occupational therapists and neuropsychologists who evaluate a person’s driving history, family concerns, overall health, cognitive function and driving reflexes. A road test is also involved. The team recommends if it is time to stop driving or brush up on certain skills. We might suggest working with a driving instructor to focus on errors found in driving assessment.

“We always remind drivers to take all their schedule medications and maintain their cars to increase their chances of staying on the road.”

Other programs can help you get up to the speed on the latest driving laws in your state.

Margaret Brackett

Contributing Columnist

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.