Older Driver Safety Week: Mobility Options That Work
By Stephanie Yamkovenko
Oftentimes adults take for granted the independence inherent in being able to own and drive a vehicle. A recent documentary by HBO called The Alzheimer’s Project featured the story of a woman named Fannie Davis who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was told by her doctor that she could no longer drive. “That made me feel inadequate and completely dependent on someone else,” Davis says in the video. “I’ve been taking care of myself but now this will be a whole different thing.” Fortunately, Davis took advantage of her community resources by seeking out a driving evaluation, geared to look at her individual skills and abilities and make recommendations about driving and her continued safe mobility.
Davis then visits American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) member Peggy Barco’s driving rehabilitation program, and the cameras follow her driving assessment where she struggles making turns and understanding common road signs. Following the occupational therapy assessment, Davis learns that she no longer has the skills and judgment to drive, which makes her feel like she will no longer have her independence. Fortunately, for Davis—and other older drivers—solutions and mobility options are available to ensure that people of all ages can live life to its fullest.
The reality is that as the population ages, more adults will experience the physical, mental, and sensory changes that affect safe driving. Despite those challenges, AOTA wants people to know that there are safe mobility options for people of all ages and abilities, and there is a need for broader awareness of the solutions, rather than a narrow focus on the problem.
AOTA believes that occupational therapists have the skills to evaluate a person’s overall ability to operate a vehicle safely and provide rehabilitation, if necessary and appropriate. Occupational therapy practitioners work with older adults, their families, and their caregivers, identifying unique challenges and finding strategies that will help them live fuller lives by keeping older adults active, healthy, and safe in their communities.
The inaugural AOTA Older Driver Safety Week is from December 6 to 12 and seeks to raise awareness and increase education about the aging driver’s options. Empowered with information, facts, and strategies, we can facilitate the safety of our aging family members, friends, and neighbors. Another aim is to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure that older adults who cannot drive will remain active in their communities, and unlike with Davis, have the confidence that lack of transportation will not strand them at home.
Each day of Older Driver Safety Week, AOTA will spotlight a different aspect of older driver safety, including information on family conversations, screening, evaluations, and more. Learn more about the day themes here.
- Monday, December 7: Family Conversations
- Tuesday, December 8: Screening/Evaluations
- Wednesday, December 9: Driving Equipment/Adaptations
- Thursday, December 10: Taking Changes in Stride
- Friday, December 11: Life After Driving
A main goal of the Older Driver Safety Week is to inform the public that the aging driver has options and that for many aging drivers the fear of losing their independence can be abated with the help of education, evaluation, and modifications.
Read more about Older Driver Safety Awareness Week here.
You can watch Fannie Davis on the HBO Alzheimer’s Project online, her segment starts at about minute 12.
Stephanie Yamkovenko is AOTA’s staff writer.