As baby boomers enter the over 65 age bracket at an alarming rate (10,000 each day), the concern for older drivers’ safety and independence is greater now than at any time in our history. Adults 65 and older make up more than 16% of all licensed drivers, nationwide. And the numbers are growing as baby-boomers age. By 2040, it is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will be 70 or older.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) along with AAA, AARP Driver Safety, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Center for Senior Transportation (NCST), and other organizations are raising awareness of ways to keep older drivers safe on the road through AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (Dec. 3-7, 2018).
Held annually on the first week of December, the campaign raises awareness of the growing population of older adults and their transportation needs. Each day covers a theme critical to empowering older drivers and their families:
- Monday, Dec. 3: Anticipating Changes That Can Affect Driving. As part of the natural aging process, most people experience physical, cognitive, and sensory changes that can affect driving. Being in tune with these changes is the first step to remaining safe.
- Tuesday, Dec. 4: Family Conversations. The holidays are a great time to bring up a loved one’s driving safety. Waiting until an accident happens can leave the driver feeling as if he or she needs to defend themselves. Planning ahead is the most successful way to safely maintain older driver’s independence.
- Wednesday, Dec. 5: Screening and Evaluations With an Occupational Therapist. Driving fitness evaluations range from self-assessments, which can be useful educational tools to help identify potential challenges, to a comprehensive driving evaluation from an occupational therapy driving rehabilitation specialist.
- Thursday, Dec. 6: Interventions That Can Empower Drivers and Families. Often times, suggestions made during a driver evaluation go beyond minor mirror or seat adjustments and may involve the use of adaptive equipment or vehicle modification.
- Friday, Dec. 7: Staying Engaged in the Community With or Without a Car. If a driver feels that they need to limit or stop driving, they may fear a loss of independence or life of isolation. There are many resources available to help older drivers maintain their quality of life.
“Just as we plan for our financial futures, we need to plan for our transportation futures as we age,” says Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, CDRS, FAOTA, project coordinator of AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Initiative. “Respecting the physical, cognitive, and sensory changes that come with age may require adjustments in driving patterns, vehicle equipment, or a skills refresher, but do not have to mean giving up the keys and living in isolation without access to transportation. Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is dedicated to building awareness of the growing array of options available to seniors to support their goal of driving safety and maintaining an active lifestyle. Occupational therapists certified in driver rehabilitation offer drivers an individualized evaluation to explore the range of solutions to stay on the road safely and confidently.”
To learn more, visit www.aota.org/driver-safety or follow #ODSAW18. A Twitter chat (#ODSAWchat) featuring representatives from national safety and aging organizations is planned for 3-4 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 6.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 213,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting professional and educational standards, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.
*Logo courtesy of American Occupational Therapy Association