Older Americans 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 a new report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 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. The study was undertaken in light of the fact that 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.
“This comprehensive review of research confirmed the consequences of driving cessation in older adults,” Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The decision to stop driving, whether voluntary or involuntary, appears to contribute to a variety of health problems for seniors particularly depression, as social circles are greatly reduced.”
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. When older motorists give up the keys, 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.
“Maintaining independence by continuing to drive safely is important to overall health and well-being,” said Kissinger. “When the decision is made to relinquish the keys, it is vital to mitigate the potential negative effects through participation in programs that allow seniors to remain mobile and socially connected.”
A free program AAA offers to older drivers is Roadwise Review Online, a free, confidential, screening/self-assessment tool developed by AAA to help older drivers measure mental and physical abilities important for safe driving. In as little as 30 minutes, users can identify and get further guidance on the physical and mental skills that need improvement, in the privacy of their home.
For more, go to SeniorDriving.AAA.com.