Driving a car helps older adults maintain their independence and keep in contact with family, friends, and the community. Indeed, many retirement communities in the 20th century, including those in the “Sun Belt,” were built around the automobile.
But the reality is, as time goes by, everyone starts to experience some age-related declines in faculties—including reductions in visual perception, reaction time, muscle strength, and mobility.
So, today, let’s talk about some important issues to consider when you’re an older driver—as well as how you can keep your independence (and your driver’s license) for as long as possible…
Seek guidance from a medical professional
“Retiring” from operating an automobile is an important life decision, as it impacts housing arrangements, lifestyle, and finances. Yet there’s no gold standard for assessing an older person’s fitness to drive a car.
Your local motor vehicle administration (MVA) issues driver’s licenses. But it’s certainly not equipped to determine an older person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
Of course, the nanny state of California tries to make decisions for its residents by requiring everyone age 70 years and older to take a visual and written test every five years.
But I believe this testing is yet another example of government overreach. Plus, assessing an older driver’s fitness is a much more complex process than what the grossly corrupt and incompetent California MVA is capable of doing.
(Thankfully, they haven’t tried this aggressive stunt yet in Florida, where I am a resident. And the MVA here in Florida consistently has the best, most competent, and most helpful staff by far, compared to anywhere else I’ve lived, including California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania.)
Instead of allowing the government to call all the shots, the process should really begin with some self-reflection. Start asking yourself some hard questions, such as:
- Do other drivers honk at me? Do I honk at others unnecessarily?
- Have I been involved in some “near misses” or “fender benders” recently?
- Do I have trouble seeing at night?
- Do I find myself intimidated by other drivers?
- Do I feel confident driving in less-than-ideal weather conditions?
- Are family members concerned about my driving?
You also need to discuss the issue with your primary care physician. After all, they have a good grasp on your overall health as well as specific physical capabilities.
Your doctor can start by assessing your vision and hearing. You should also go to a vision specialist at least once every two years to test your depth perception and peripheral vision.
But the assessment shouldn’t stop there. Your doctor should also assess your:
- Blood pressure and blood sugar, as low readings can cause dizziness and fainting
- Cognitive function, including your attention span, focus, language skills, and memory. (In fact, I’ll tell you all about simple cognitive tests you can take right in your primary care physician’s office in the January issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter!)
- Chronic health conditions, to make sure they are well-controlled
- Dosing of prescription drugs, as many common drugs can impair cognitive and physical function
- Joint health, muscle strength, and overall mobility, including history of falls
After a thorough, professional assessment, you’ll have some reliable answers to take into consideration. And if your doctor has concerns about your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, they should communicate their views with clarity and compassion.
And if your doctor deems you competent, that’s great news! But don’t take it as a free pass. There are still some steps you should take to protect your driving rights—for as long as you want them. In fact, I suggest you do the following:
1.) Participate in refresher and safety courses
I see many refresher courses offered in Florida through AARP or AAA. You can browse their websites for more information.
2.) Go for regular, brisk walks
The ability to walk well is a sign of good health, independence, and mobility in older adults. In fact, I’ve reported on how studies indicate a good gait is the single best predictor of longevity. So, make sure to go for regular, brisk walks. And when you run errands, park at the far end of the parking lot to give yourself a longer walk into the store.
Plus, other research shows that aspal (South African rooibos or red bush) and dandelion (either as a tea or supplement) can significantly improve gait in men. Powdered aspal extract combined with blueberry powder can also boost functional mobility. You can browse the “shop” tab on my website for recommendations as well. Simply type “aspal” or “dandelion” into the search function.
3.) Protect your joints
Pain and stiffness can really hinder your ability to drive a car safely. So, be sure to find ways to keep those joints in good working order. I suggest supplementing daily with my “ABCs of joint health,” which includes ashwagandha, boswellia, and curcumin (which I discussed yesterday). Together, this natural trio outperforms drugs in providing long-term relief from joint pain.
4.) Keep up muscle strength
It probably goes without saying that you must have good muscle strength to drive a car, as it affects everything from your posture to your ability to get in and out of the car independently. Of course, as I always report, eating more protein is one of the best ways to maintain muscle strength as you get older—especially if you’re a man. But studies show most men don’t get nearly enough protein daily. So, make sure you eat plenty of grass-fed, organic meats and wild-caught fish every day.
5.) Keep the brain firing
As you know, I don’t put much stock in online “brain training” games. However, you can—and should—protect your cognitive ability in other ways. For example, as I regularly report, blueberries offer remarkable short- and long-term benefits for cognition and memory. I also recommend enjoying three to four cups of coffee in the morning. Not only will the coffee keep you sharp behind the wheel, it also has many other health benefits as well.
In the end, finding ways to stay active and engaged in the world around you will prove most beneficial. So, join a book club. Attend a lecture at your local library. Take a cooking class. The possibilities are endless. You can even practice driving to them!
Of course, you can learn about many other effective approaches for staying vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond in my protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” If you’d like to learn more about this online learning tool or enroll today, simply click here.
“Expert: When It’s Time to Make a Senior Stop Driving.” Newsmax, 8/20/2019. (newsmax.com/health/health-news/senior-citizens-elderly/2019/08/20/id/929239/)