Centers for Disease Control has reported that 1 out of 4 people over the age of 65 experiences a fall every year. And according to a new study from AAA, senior drivers who are prone to falls are 40 percent more likely to be involved in car accidents.
Research about Falls and Senior Drivers
For the study on older drivers and falls, the team at AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety teamed up with researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Together, they found that falls can increase the risk of car crashes in two different ways:
- Falls can lead to serious injuries, such as broken wrists or legs, which result in the loss of functional abilities. This makes it difficult for older drives to brake in an emergency or steer the car away from a crash.
- Once older adults experience a fall, their fear of falling again increases. This can create anxiety that further reduces physical activity. A lack of exercise and movement can diminish skills required for driving.
“When it comes to physical health, you either use it or lose it,” said AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy, Jake Nelson. “Falls often scare people into being less active, but decreasing physical activity can weaken muscles and coordination and make someone more likely to be in a crash.”
What to Do When a Loved One Falls
In addition to getting rid of clutter in the home and eliminating throw rugs, you can also encourage your aging loved one to try completing exercises to improve balance and agility. For example:
- Simple yoga stretches improve neck, shoulder, back and overall body flexibility
- Light weight lifting increases strength and muscle tone
- Pilates or other exercises strengthen the body’s core
It might be a bit reactionary to take a loved one’s keys away after one fall, even if it seems like a good idea. A better course of action may be to closely monitor your aging parent to spot signs their physical condition is weakening.
Should your parent experience a second fall, you probably need to consider talking to them about hanging up the keys or at least restricting their driving to times of day when there is less traffic.
Fall Prevention and Senior Living
“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year, and it’s important that we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road,” says Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
If your loved one has experienced several falls at home and you no longer feel comfortable having them behind the wheel, making a move to a senior living community is an option to discuss. Among the many benefits to senior living is an environment is designed to help prevent falls and transportation services that are available for residents.