Weston senior health care provider: Driving tips
By Rodney Gonsalves
Posted at 3:01 AM
Think of the first time you were behind the wheel. You were probably nervous, excited and ready to explore. You were younger, perhaps a thrill seeker, but for the most part had the mental and physical ability to drive from one place to the other without much hassle.
As you age, those mental and physical abilities you had when you were younger begin to decline — even if you don’t notice the change personally. However, to be a safe senior driver, you must be extra vigilant of your driving habits, those around you and question if driving is the safest way for you to exercise your independence.
In order to remain a safe and conscientious driver throughout your senior years, here are a few tips to help keep both yourself and those you share the road with as safe as possible.
Reduce risk factors by staying physically active and scheduling regular vision and hearing tests. Remaining active will help improve your strength and flexibility, which will make common tasks such as turning the wheel or looking over your shoulder a cinch. Also, knowing if your vision or hearing has declined, as is common in older adults, is essential for you to know your boundaries — such as if you’re able to drive safely at night or hear an oncoming siren.
Update your driving skills through online assessments or enrolling in a mature driving course. Not only do many insurers offer a mature driver discount after successfully completing courses such as these, but you will also learn new techniques that can increase your confidence, reduce your risk of being involved in an accident, lower your chances of receiving a ticket and raise your personal awareness of physical and mental changes associated with aging.
Consider hanging up your keys if you or a loved one begins to notice negative changes in your driving habits. Some unsafe driving habits to look out for include getting lost more often than usual, difficulty judging distances (which can manifest in frequently speeding up and slowing down) or failing to yield the right of way and trouble recognizing stop signs or traffic lights.
Even if you do end up reducing your driving or giving it up altogether, you aren’t giving up your independence and can even gain health benefits by using alternative transportation methods. While there are many ways to get from point A to point B, the Independent Transportation Network, founded in 1995, is a great example of an alternative way for seniors to safely get around town.
After a decade of research and testing, ITN received funding and recognition from philanthropic organizations and government agencies such as AARP. Today it is known as ITNAmerica, “a national nonprofit network of community-based senior transportation programs.” Unlike taxis or other rideshare options, drivers for ITNAmerica are often volunteers from the community, aware of and dedicated to helping seniors throughout the ride, offering true door-to-door service.
You can schedule local rides 24/7 for any reason and choose if you’d prefer to ride solo or share the trip. These social interactions can lead to improved mental health while serving as a welcome change of pace to your daily habits.
The key thing to remember is that no matter how skilled or unskilled you may be as a driver, you can safely drive as a senior in any circumstance — you just might not be the one behind the wheel.
Rodney Gonsalves is regional vice president of operations at Wingate Healthcare, a local senior living provider, which includes Wingate at Weston. He has served as an administrator of nursing home and assisted living communities for over 15 years.