She’s Giving Up Control

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Older women are much more likely to stop driving than older men and sooner. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says there are 33 million licensed drivers 65 or older and that number is climbing for both men and women. According to the National Household Travel (NHT)Study in 2009: “Driving Miss Daisy” demonstrated that after age 65 woman stop driving at twice the rates of men.

In the early 1980’s my husband’s stepfather took us Down East in Maine to return their sailing yacht charter. After the return of the boat, we all needed a ride home north to Boothbay Harbor.

It impressed me that he hired an elderly woman with a Ford Woodie station wagon as our lift. The neatly kept car fit the four of us and all our baggage. I loved her steady foot, her sturdy shoes, her common sense and lovely downeast twang. I was impressed her full-time job was giving sailors a lift home from charters. She was most certainly over 75, wide-eyed and alert. I loved the fact she drove well with confidence.

In contrast my own mother and my husband’s mother who were not strong drivers both gave up driving in their 60’s. Both blamed their vision; yet their of confidence played an important role. Each was lucky to have spouses who drove or money to pay a driver.

There is lots of reasons women stop driving. Women have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia, take medications more as they age and yes, there is the confidence factor. In fact, often it’s the woman who chooses not to drive. In most couples of all ages men tend to do the driving 79% of the time according to the same study and that does not give them enough practice. Women give up the wheel much easier than men who fight to keep the right.

At the National Institute of Aging (NIA), which funds many studies on aging and driving, Dr. Richard Suzmen, director of the NIA’s Behavioral and Social Research department, last year (2013) said, “The safety of older drivers and others with whom they share the road is an important public health concern, to better understand and address this issue, the NIA has supported a variety of studies, from a focus on the mechanisms of age-related decline in driving ability to possible interventions for maintaining key skills necessary for driving and safety.” Maintaining skills is the key.

In an older Federal study “The Mobility Consequences of the Reduction or Cessation of Driving by Older Women,” found that older women were much more likely to cease driving than men, except in cases when the men were disabled. When women stopped driving, according to the study, engagement in everyday life was severely affected with activity avoidance and disengagement from the overall society was increased.

There are more women nowadays, driving more and for longer years. People are living longer. At the, “Driving Miss Daisy” conference they looked at older woman driver statistics and they found baby boomers were finally closing the gap and driving as much as their male counterparts. Although they commented that still as women grow older (over 65) they were most often found as passengers.

One of the most interesting points in all of these studies was how women need to “Take The Wheel” (TTW) if they want to continue to control their lives. If you are always letting someone else chauffeur you then you will fall out of practice. They found these women stopped driving sooner when they were driven around.

So driving is really a life practice, an exercise, a learned behavior. If you avoid driving you will fall out of practice and lose confidence. Driving is a feast for the senses and judgement encouraging you to use your eyes to for stereo vision to judge distance and your ears with the window rolled down as you pull out into traffic to start your morning. Consistent exercise of your senses creates sharper judgments and is great brain work.

While you should have exercise with good nutrition, regular sound sleep is critical to alertness. Here’s some other tips; use your seatbelt properly 100% of the time, plan your route before, if possible travel during low traffic density. Highways are safer than city streets. Have your eyes checked regularly and encourage yourself to try a few eye exercises. Practice turning your torso instead of just your neck for lane changes, parking or going in reverse, too.

Women who took the wheel more were more often driving as they aged and their confidence continued. It’s really true, “Driving one’s own car is the option used by most persons in the United States today to obtain the mobility necessary to maintain connections in society” Ladies: “Take The Wheel” for a fuller social life and a happier one. Mature-Motoring-Orange

The Mobility Consequences of the Reduction of Cessation of Driving by Older Women” J. Burkhardt, A. Berger, and A. McGavock, USDOT 1993

Driving Miss Daisy; Women as Passengers, Fourth International Conf on Women’s Issues in Transportation, Nancy McGuckin, Travel Behavior Assoc. 2013

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