A reduced social circle and fewer opportunities to participate in activities is at the root of the problem.
As you grow older, getting help with daily tasks can be handy. Keeping your independence is also valuable, however. This could mean continuing to live on your own, making your own meals or being able to travel abroad when and where you like.
For some, it simply comes down to being able to drive around town.
It’s true that some seniors develop physical and mental conditions that make this impossible. If you can hold onto your license and your car, though, it could be a benefit to your overall health.
Why? A study done by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that seniors who stop driving are at a much greater risk of developing depression. In fact, the risk doubles.
Cognitive abilities can also take a beating as well as certain physical functions.
To complete the study, researchers reviewed and analyzed quantitative health-related data for drivers aged 55 and older from 16 studies. They compared the results with data collected from current drivers.
It was found that when someone stops driving, their social circle is reduced by about 50%. Women seemed to suffer more than men, in this category.
Former drivers were also nearly five times as likely to be admitted to a nursing home, assisted living community, or retirement home, compared with those who still drove.
“As older ex-drivers begin substituting outside activities with indoor activities around the home, these activities may not be as beneficial to physical functioning as working or volunteering on the outside,” said Thelma Mielenz, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School and co-author of the study.
“When time comes to stop driving, it is important to make personalized plans to maintain mobility and social functions.”
For tips on finding tools that can make driving safer for seniors, and elongate your time on the road, click here.