Full disclosures, about Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. First, that’s me in the picture above. And second, I just got my AARP envelope in the mail.
To be clear, I definitely *do not* identify as an older driver. But I’ll admit that my athletic abilities are nowhere near what they once were. For instance in my teens, twenties, and thirties. Back then I was able to do and endure far more than I am able to comfortably do so today.
So, with all that in mind, I share this article with a wider (and hopefully wiser) audience. Including myself and my elders… much elders. :0)
When we hear the term “sharing the road”, we usually think about watching out for cyclists and pedestrians.
However, with Older Driver Safety Awareness Week 2021, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is educating the public about road safety and senior drivers.
The educational program focuses on a different aspect of aging and driving each day from December 6-10.
Older Driver Safety Awareness Week 2021: Overview
Aging can dramatically affect a person’s ability to drive. Response times, vision, hearing, and other faculties start to slip as they get older.
When this process starts varies depending on a person’s age and overall health. But everyone eventually faces these issues, and a conversation about when to turn over the car keys usually isn’t far behind.
However, isolation is another major problem among senior citizens, and few things are as isolating as being unable to drive. Driving helps people maintain their independence and create their own schedules.
Therefore, older people are understandably reluctant to stop driving, even if they’re concerned about safety.
Solutions for Aging Drivers
So, in an effort to help older drivers stay mobile and active the AOTA is promoting Older Driver Safety Weeks.
Plus, to make things a bit easier to digest (and in some cases accept) they’ve chopped the week up into daily topics.
Monday: Anticipating Changes That Can Affect Driving
Modern medicine can help a lot with the effects of aging, but it can’t reverse them. Eventually, we’ll all face age-related difficulties. However, understanding these changes before they happen can help older drivers and their families be better prepared. Talking about transportation early on allows you to explore options and plan for the future.
Tuesday: Family Conversations
The conversation about taking away a loved one’s keys often follows the same cycle. The older person has an incident or near miss that makes the family worry. Then, the family comes together to determine what’s next. Sometimes, the older person isn’t even involved in the conversation. The better approach? Start these conversations before there’s even a need or reason for your relative to stop driving. Keep the conversation respectful and always acknowledge your relative’s feelings.
Wednesday: Screening & Evaluations With An Occupational Therapist
Oftentimes, you’ll need input from a third party to decide the next steps for your loved one. One goal behind Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is to help families know that they’re not alone in figuring out what to do for an aging driver. OTs offer Driving Fitness Evaluations that help you understand where your relative could use some support behind the wheel. From there, families can work with the individual to determine the safest way forward.
Thursday: Interventions That Can Empower Drivers & Families
OTs work with individuals and families to create safe driving plans. They may suggest small changes, like altering the seat height or mirror angles. However, they might recommend larger changes such as car modifications or special equipment to help your loved one drive. Above all, OTs look for solutions to help your loved one continue driving as long as possible without endangering others.
Friday: Staying Engaged in the Community With or Without A Car
Isolation is a core concern once someone stops driving. Therefore, if your relative willingly decides to give up their keys or has to stop driving due to safety concerns, you’ll want to make sure they can still get around. Come up with a plan so that they can access public transportation or get rides from family or friends. Further, remember that many communities have options for helping seniors get around safely.
How You Can Help
You can participate in AOTA’s Driver Safety Awareness Week in a few ways:
- Give rides to an older loved one or other seniors in your community.
- Share AOTA’s resources with anyone who might benefit.
- Start a conversation with your family about driving plans for an older loved one if you have any concerns about their safety behind the wheel.
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