Can Giving Up the Car Keys Result in Health Risks for Seniors?

by JFS Care

It’s one of the more tricky decisions we must confront in later years, and a very delicate subject for adult children to initiate with their senior parents: giving up the car keys. Driving ourselves, while delivering an inherent feeling of freedom and independence, can become tremendously unsafe due to a number of factors linked to growing older. And surrendering that independence for safety’s sake can feel defeating.

Now we can add to the dilemma the latest findings that giving up driving can lead to both mental and physical decline. This determination leads to a vicious circle of decreasing health resulting in the need to stop driving, leading to further health decline because of additional solitude, depression, and less physical activity.

The research, published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, revealed that seniors who relinquished their driving rights ended up being doubly inclined to end up with worsening depression, decreased physical functioning, and increased decline in cognitive abilities. And much more concerning, individuals who gave up on driving were more likely to die within the following 3-5 year time period.

Senior researcher for the study and founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Guohua Li, explains, “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 situations, restricting driving during specific conditions will ease the change into surrendering the keys completely. The senior’s medical professional ought to be spoken with first, naturally, 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, emphasizes the need for older persons to remain engaged in their community and to stay as mobile and socially involved as possible. Family members are asked to search for opportunities for their aging loved one to get involved in activities at a local senior center, exercise programs, volunteering, etc.

JFS Care, top providers of senior care in Santa Monica and surrounding areas, offers a practical option: safe, reliable transportation and accompaniment services, allowing seniors the independence to continue to come and go as they please, while not placing themselves or other people in harm’s way. We are aware of each senior’s preferred plan in order to reach desired destinations, allowing the senior to remain in full power over when and where to go. Contact us at (213) 383-2273 to learn more.