Aging takes its toll in many ways, and one of the things it can affect is driving. Arthritis can make turning the steering wheel difficult, grabbing seat belts a challenge or getting into and out of a vehicle a chore. Some medical conditions can affect the nerves in our feet and legs, impacting our ability to use brake and gas pedals. But aging doesn’t have to bring the ride to an end. With the help of a certified driver rehabilitation specialist and appropriate adaptive devices, many older drivers can overcome the physical challenges that come with age and maintain the independence they cherish.
“The data is so strong that the majority of seniors want to continue to drive as long as they can,” said Elin Schold Davis, project coordinator for the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Older Driver Initiative. “It’s imperative that we do it safely. And I think the concept that the only way to keep people safe is to take them off the road is flawed. Frankly, we need our seniors driving as long as they can, because we can’t afford the transit options to get people around that could be driving. We need people to be as independent as they can [be], but they have to be safe for themselves and for the community.”
To that end, Schold Davis strongly encourages older drivers experiencing physical challenges to work with driver rehabilitation specialists certified through the American Occupational Therapy Association or ADED, the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. Why? Because they can do an assessment and recommend individualized adaptations, Schold Davis said, as well as teach drivers how to use recommended devices.
Sometimes finding a driver rehab specialist can be a challenge because there hasn’t been a huge demand for their services, but as baby boomers age that is likely to change.