For older drivers, is it time to hang up the keys

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Baby Boomers are really the first generation to grow up with a car in nearly every household.

But, they're not young anymore. They're becoming older drivers, and being an older driver can have issues.

Driving is one of those skills that improve with age and experience.

But, what happens when older drivers peak, and their skills begin to decline?

When is it time to voluntarily give up the keys or get your driving skills re-evaluated?

"I actually wish the person would come to me, but mostly it's the families that are starting to notice some problems with momma or daddy not paying attention very well when they are driving."

Glenda Loyd is one of only 4 Occupational Therapists in Arkansas who can evaluate older drivers.

We spent some time driving in her evaluation vehicle on Jonesboro's rainy streets.

I've always considered myself a pretty good driver. But ,I'm getting up there in years, and pretty soon, I'll be part of the generation that's reached this peak and probably will not driving quite as well as I possibly should be.

So, when is it time to hang up the keys, or at least have our driving skills re-evaluated?

I spoke with Jodi Olshevski a Gerontologist from the Hartford Advance 50 Team.

"There really is no magic age at which a person should stop driving. It's really more about ability than age that's important. "

Here's a scenario. You're riding with your 70 year old mom to the store, and you notice a few things.

She's bumping into things, she's not staying in her lane, and she's distracted. Everybody's honking at her.

At this point, according to both Loyd and Olshevski, it might be time to suggest to mom or dad they have a professional evaluate their driving.

We're not talking about taking the state driving exam again. This evaluation needs to be done by an Occupational Therapist who is trained in this particular skill like Glenda Loyd.

Olshevski says, "They can sort of be the ones to evaluate and decide if it's time for mom or dad to transition from driver to passenger."

It's not like the drivers test when you get your license.

Instead it involves extensive testing of vision, motor skills and cognition.

Loyd says, "According to how well you score on that testing is also going to be a real determining factor on whether you're gonna be able to continue driving."

To make sure the testing is done right, make sure your tester is certified.

Dr. Lisa D'Ambrosio from MIT says it has to be done correctly to make sure the right result is given.

"They have special training on what is the right mix of cognitive and physical skills that are necessary for driving to make sure that you receive a complete assessment of your personal and individual driving skills."

And, realize that the loss of a senior's driving abilities can result in a very traumatic experience without some kind of back up plan to get them from one place or another. It can place a lot of reliance on family members if there is a lack of transportation in the local area.

There is a lot of information you and your family need to know about this issue. Go to the web sites I've attached to this story to help you begin the evaluation process.

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