Improving Road Safety for Seniors

Written by Sally Perkins

Retirement is a great time in which to pursue your passion, and without a doubt, driving could be one of them. According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, there are approximately 40 million licenced drivers aged 65 or over, which is great news for those wishing to remain mobile. Although it is true that age can bring about an increased risk of some types of accidents and injuries, simply being aware of these risks is an excellent way to continue to enjoy the independence that driving can offer. In this post, we highlight pertinent statistics to senior drivers and share ways to boost safety and enjoyment on the road.

Which Groups are at Risk of Accidents?

The risk of being involved in a fatal crash starts to increase among drivers aged 70 to 74, and is highest in those aged 85 or older. This is one reason why coverage for senior drivers tends to be higher. Interestingly, the statistics are not as simple as they seem. That is, the percentages can be attributed to an increased susceptibility and medical complications rather than to an increased risk of car crashes in over 65s. Males have a higher risk of fatal crashes than females. Some of the abilities that can increase one’s risk include vision problems and a decline (if relevant) in cognitive functioning (reasoning and memory).

Key Points Regarding Driver Safety among Seniors

Some issues that can affect seniors’ ability to drive safely include the fact that 80% of people in their 70s suffer from arthritis/joint inflammation, which can make specific movements which are necessary for driving (including turning and twisting) painful. Weaker muscles and reduced flexibility, meanwhile, can limit one’s ability to grip and turn the steering wheel, press the foot pedals, or reach for the doors or windows. Taking medication can also have an impact on driving ability. If you look at the statistics per person, seniors are less involved in accidents than younger brothers. However, if you look at the accident rate per mile, the rate is equally high in both groups.

Driving Errors Differ according to Age

Older drivers are actually more careful. They have a lower percentage of risks on bends and while overtaking, than those in their 50s. Seniors tend to have slower, more conservative, cautious driving styles. They are less inclined to take part in speeding, overtaking, zigzagging, and they are less likely to fail to comply with police instructions. However, they can be more prone to making errors that can lead to a crash, particularly in intersections on 60/70 mph roads. They can also be at fault in accidents having to do with right of way.

CDC Recommendations

In order to reduce driver deaths and injuries, the CDC recommends using seatbelts rigorously. It is also important for seniors to drive during the day (when visibility is better) and when the weather is optimal for this activity. They could also consider avoiding high-speed roads, when quick lane changing and faster reflexes may be necessary to avoid an accident. Drinking is a no-no, as it is for all age groups. Around 20% of drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.

Additional Strategies to Reduce Accident Risks

It is vital for seniors to be aware of the specific risks they face, and those they may pose. Thus, family members can help them practice key skills such as negotiating intersections. Seniors can also make it a point to leave a large distance with the car in front, and make an extra effort to ensure they are driving within their lane at all times. Older drivers should go for regular assessments, to make sure they are wearing appropriate vision wear if glasses or contact lenses are required. Their eyesight in particular should be tested at least once a year. Seniors should also let their doctor know they are driving, so they can be informed if any medication they are taking may affect their driving abilities.

Finally, they should use GPS technology to study routes; streetview is an excellent way for seniors to know where they need to turn off or which exit they need to take. Planning before taking a route one is unfamiliar with is important, as is picking the best time of the day to travel. Distractions such as mobile phones and loud music or radios should be avoided, and if possible, public transport or carpooling should be considered for complicated or far routes.

When is it Time to Stop Driving?

Although many seniors need their vehicles to get around and complete tasks, it is important to know when it might be of interest to use public transport or to rely on family and friends. Signs include getting lost frequently, having frequent ‘close calls’, having difficulty reading signs or hearing sirens and other cues, and failing to obey traffic lights, signs, etc. Many local governments provide low cost transport for over 65s.

If you love driving, there is no reason why you cannot continue to do so after retirement. Being honest with oneself is key, since our safety and that of others is at stake. Yearly eye appointments, GPS technology, practicing key techniques such as negotiating intersections, and talking to our doctor about side-effects of any medication one may be taking can go a long way towards making driving a pleasurable and safe experience.

Ten Ways Seniors Can Improve Mobility and Maintain Their Independence

Written by Nurse Susan

Many seniors assume that limited mobility is an unavoidable part of the aging process. This definitely doesn’t have to be the case. By focusing on improving and maintaining their mobility, seniors can age in a healthy way, stay independent longer, and avoid falls and injuries that may negatively impact their quality of life.

Listed below are ten ways that seniors can improve their mobility to maintain strength and independence.

  1. Improve Balance

Focusing on improving balance is essential for seniors who want to avoid falls. Forms of exercise like yoga, tai chi, and pilates are great for improving balance. But, simply practicing standing on one foot (while holding onto chair or countertop) is also beneficial.

  1. Resistance Train

Resistance training strengthens the muscles and bones to improve balance and overall functionality. For seniors who are new to resistance training, bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups are a good starting point. Those who are more experienced can add resistance bands or weights.

  1. Utilize Mobility Aids

For those who currently struggle with walking, reaching, or other daily functions, it’s important to utilize mobility aids rather than simply avoid doing tasks that are challenging. Reach-extenders, canes, and walkers can help you stay active and avoid letting your limitations get in your way.

  1. Adjust Your Living Space

Making adjustments to your home can also improve your mobility and help you maintain your independence. Some good adjustments to start with include:

  • Adding ramps to the entrance of your home
  • Installing rails and grab bars
  • Getting rid of loose rugs and objects that you could trip over
  • Rearranging cabinets and closets to make items more accessible
  1. Work on Your Dexterity

If you improve your dexterity and grip strength, you’ll have an easier time handling tasks like opening doors and jars and carrying groceries. If you have a stronger grip, you’ll also have an easier time holding weights while you resistance train.

There are numerous ways to improve your dexterity and grip strength from the comfort of your own home:

  • Squeeze a stress ball or therapy putty
  • Do wrist curls with light dumbbells
  • Do hand and finger stretches
  • Practice picking up small objects like pennies or paper clips and moving them from one pile to another
  1. Tackle Household Projects on Your Own

There may be some household projects that you need help with — major projects like shingling your roof or mowing the lawn should probably be handled by professions! But, are there projects you’re outsourcing even though you could handle them on your own.

One way to improve your mobility is to challenge yourself to take on more projects. Don’t get carried away and do more than you can manage, but consider tackling tasks like changing light bulbs, vacuuming, and basic cleaning by yourself.

  1. Buy New Shoes

Sometimes, the solution to your mobility problems is simple. Changing your shoes could make a big difference in your ability to walk around and take care of other tasks. Look for shoes with plenty of tread to help you avoid slipping and falling. Your shoes should also fit comfortably and have plenty of support so that you can walk for extended periods of time without hurting your feet. Make sure you’re changing your shoes regularly, too, to avoid wearing them out.

  1. Change Your Diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help increase your energy and, by proxy, your mobility. Increasing your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, nuts, and leafy green vegetables can also help reduce inflammation and joint pain that may be limiting your ability to move around freely.

  1. Get Your Eyes Checked

Conserving your vision with regular checkups will also help you maintain your independence. Not only will you be able to drive yourself to appointments, but you’ll also be able to spot potential tripping hazards more easily.

  1. Know Your Limits

Finally, while it’s important to challenge yourself, it’s also important for you to understand your limits. Avoid taking on risky activities that could end up making your mobility worse. If you’re not sure about a specific activity, talk to your doctor before participating.

Retirement Blues

According to life’s great book of rules, retirement should be the satisfying, well-deserved culmination of a life spent in preparation for just this moment. Away from the stresses of the working world, able to pursue interests that are actually interesting, free to spend time as you want – darn close to the definition of the perfect scenario. How could anyone find they are anything but happy to be retired?

Be careful what you wish for…

What if you discover you are not entirely ready to retire? What if you are unprepared to fill your free hours with worthwhile, meaningful and fun things? Perhaps worst of all what if you become bored? The thought of twenty or thirty more years spent pursuing the same dismal course can bring on those retirement blues big time.

I enjoy being retired. But the beginning of my second act was anything but enjoyable. Having lost my job at the tender age of 53 no one was more surprised than me to find I was no longer hirable. Apparently 30 years of experience was no longer valued in the fast moving technology start-up rocket-to-the-moon companies I had been happily engaged with to this point. Upon finding myself “on the streets” I struggled for more than a year to find some fit, enduring multiple pulse-quickening sweaty-pit-inducing interviews but found no takers.

At first I was confused. To this point I had moved seamlessly from company to company with very little time between jobs. Someone always wanted me on their team. I thought I still had “it” but apparently that was not the case. What had changed so drastically?

I questioned my own worth. Was it something about me? Had I lost my mojo, was I no longer good enough? In the end I fear I was just too old to fit the bill with the twenty-something CEOs driving those enterprises onward. My original plans had been to work to close to age 62. Forced retirement could put a major crimp in the financial position I had hoped to be in before my exit. Not the best way to start a retirement life.

What if you find as you enter your “golden years” you are not physically or mentally up to launching a new life chapter? Many retirement age folks have worked long and hard along the way. Some may just be worn out. Now that you finally have the time to do all you dream of you just don’t have the energy. Talk about grounds for a serious case of the retirement blues.

What if you find yourself living your retirement dream solo? Probably not exactly the dream you envisioned but sometimes reality just the same. All those adventures you planned with your significant other, those spur-of-the-moment escapes, those travels to previously unvisited destinations, those peaceful times spent side-by-side reading or just enjoying being together – without someone to share the moment a piece of the magic is missing.

What if retirement is just not what you expected? You may be free to do what you want but do you know what that might be? Will an empty calendar be a good thing or not? You may have hobbies but are they enough to entertain you for ten or twenty or more years?

Before you let those retirement blues get the best of you take a moment to remember what you have dealt with and survived to arrive at this stage of your life. Each of us has faced challenges. If you have raised a family you have weathered storms the likes of which only fellow parents can imagine. You have withstood everything from teething to tantrums, sleepless nights to dance recital jitters, teen angst to bewildered young adults struggling to grow up, and on and on. You have to be pretty tough to get through all this with all your marbles (or at least most of them).

Many have weathered careers that were a far cry from what we imagined when we began. Not all bosses are a joy to work with. Not all deadlines are reasonable. Not all who should be promoted are in fact promoted. Sticking with it is no easy chore and yet you prevailed.

Retirees are survivors. Don’t sell yourself short. Call upon those super hero strengths you developed along the way.

I try not to worry about things out of my control. Too often I imagine all the bad outcomes that could be and then when the moment arrives it turns out not nearly as awful as I imagined. Unfortunately I cannot take back those worrisome moments spent in anticipation of something that ultimately never was. I am learning it is better to go with the flow rather than try to prepare for every possibility.

Coping with the blues is part of the human experience. Retirement blues is just another track on the same record. We have done it before and with a little luck and determination we should be able to do it again.

Happy Retirement!

LoveBeingRetired.com