By Frank Lewis
Contrary to what you may have always believed, AAA says more health-related problems occur for the elderly when they give up their car keys. According to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the loss of driving privileges for senior drivers isn’t only emotional; it can lead to several different health risks.
Older adults who have stopped driving are almost two times more likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times as likely to enter a long-term care facility than those who remain behind the wheel, according to the report by the Foundation and Columbia University. The study examined older adults who have permanently given up driving and the impact it has on their health and mental well-being. AAA says the importance of understanding the effects this lifestyle change has on older adults is essential, as the number of drivers aged 65 and older continues to increase in the United States with nearly 81 percent of the 39.5 million seniors in this age group still behind the wheel.
“If they lose the ability to drive, senior citizens will start feeling as though their independence has been taken away,” Theresa Podguski, Legislative Affairs Director said. “This ultimately appears to lead to a variety of health problems for seniors, which our study points out,” she adds.
The number of older drivers on the road is continuing to increase in the United States. By the year 2040, nearly 20 percent of the population will be ages 65 and older. Currently, 81 percent of seniors 65 years and up hold a driver’s license.
The AAA Foundation’s report on Driving Cessation and Health Outcomes for Older Adults examined declines in general health and physical, social, and cognitive functions in former drivers. With the cessation of driving, the study found diminished productivity and low participation in daily life activities outside of the home; risk of depression nearly doubled; 51 percent reduction in the size of social networks over a 13-year period; accelerated decline in cognitive ability over a 10-year period and former drivers were five times as likely to be admitted to a long term care facility.
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