Back in 2009, the American Occupational Association rolled out an initiative called Older Driver Safety Awareness Week in an effort to promote safe driving for our elderly population. This week, the AOTA is working hard to promote safe driving for our seniors through a week long campaign.
With our seniors sometimes struggling with their hearing, vision and physical abilities, it is a good idea to think about our senior citizens and evaluate their driving habits so they can remain safe behind the wheel. It makes sense to put together a team of professionals who are equipped to evaluate and monitor the driver. By having family members who care, physicians and an occupational therapist can join together to for conversations, consultations and evaluations that will pay good dividends for everyone. Older Driver Awareness Safety week gives all Americans the opportunity to think about our seniors and hopefully check to see if their driving habits are good ones.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, the goal for Older Driver Safety Awareness week is to promote transportation and mobility for our older Americans so they can continue to be active in their community. Shopping and volunteering are vital daily tasks for our senior citizens and the plan is to help them eliminate possible barriers. The AOTA believes the occupational practitioners have the skills necessary to evaluate a person's overall ability to operate a vehicle safely and to provide rehabilitation when needed. The occupational therapist has the special ability to work with family members, caregivers and will identify unique challenges and craft a comprehensive plan to help seniors live a healthy lifestyle in their community.
The aging process proves that we all age differently and there aren't any hard and fast rules for older drivers, but we should always pay attention to our loved ones behind the wheel. According to helpguide.org, with aging we experience a reduction in our hearing, vision and motor skills. All of these are important for safe driving, as well as, coordination and strength. In addition to the occupational therapist's individual assessment, it makes good sense to:
- Visit your eye doctor annually for a checkup.
- Visit your physician and discuss physical challenges and ailments.
- Have your hearing checked annually.
The Mayo Clinic suggests 7 healthy tips for safe driving for seniors:
- Stay Active- this helps with strength and flexibility. Just doing moderate stretching and strength training improves coordination.
- Schedule hearing and vision tests- annual checkups with physicians are important even if you think you are healthy.
- Manage chronic conditions-monitor them closely, especially those that impair safety.
- Understand your limitations- this is when the occupational therapist can help you overcome limitations through treatments.
- Drive in safe conditions-drive during daylight hours and during good weather.
- No cell phone while driving-distracted driving causes accidents at any age.
- Update driver skills-take driver safety courses or defensive driving classes.