The National Safety Council considers Apr. Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Many older adults worry about having their driving privileges taken away. Learn more in our newsletter. Also featured is information from Cooking Matters ® on diets and a delicious banana crumble to celebrate National Banana Day on Apr. 14.
Empty two lane country road lined with trees
“To drive or not to drive?” may be the question, but the answer for most older adult drivers is typically “as long as I can!” Driving is a highly charged topic with older adults. It should never be taken away too soon, nor should it be extended beyond the point of safety. But how do we know the right time?
An occupational therapist certified driver rehabilitation specialist uses their knowledge of health-related conditions that affect driving to assess whether those conditions can limit driving and offers adaptations to keep a driver driving safely as long as possible.
Older drivers may experience health setbacks that impact their ability to drive. These setbacks may be temporary or can be more permanent. When you add in other concerns, such as loss of peripheral or indirect vision and cognitive or mental delay, the ability to continue driving becomes much more complicated. Another concern is mental decline. Long-term studies suggest that 15-20% of those over age 65 may have mild mental impairment. The fact that mental decline is gradual, unpredictable and individual creates the most challenging situation.
A certified driver rehabilitation specialist can find parts of the brain that are affected by mental decline and can complicate safe driving. How is this possible? There are tests that determine the speed to which the brain processes, as well as how the brain alternates and divides attention.
Although these tests do not decide driving skill, they supply glimpses into the brain that are suppressed when challenged using the mental ability related to driving. These findings coupled with a behind the wheel test supply the most complete assessment of a person’s driving competency. In the mildest cases, recommendations for computer generated brain games and brain challenging puzzles can help in sharpening the brain’s speed of responsiveness.
Certain health conditions may require added equipment to keep driving privileges within the Nevada State DMV laws. Can’t use your right foot due to amputation or nerve loss? Don't feel comfortable that your foot can find the brake pedal in time? Has a stroke affected your visual field to either the right or left? Is using secondary controls such as the turn signal out of reach? You should consider optional equipment supplied by automotive installers and the available training to master other ways to overcome these matters. Often, physical limitations can be replaced with attachments to an existing vehicle, while still allowing others to use the car in the traditional fashion. While we await an affordable self-driving vehicle, these changes can extend the safe driving capability for years.
Although the road ahead can be filled with speed bumps due to health, driving privileges can be preserved. When concerned, drivers, family members and health care providers should reach out to a certified driver rehabilitation specialist.
Healthy salad with grilled chicken and half an avocado
Sometimes nutrition experts will refer to all of the foods you eat as a diet. But our culture teaches us that diet means something entirely different – something you must do to deprive and limit yourself.
Think of healthy eating as the foods you want to keep in your diet, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc., rather than foods you have to try to summon the willpower to avoid.
Use your body’s cues to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Do your best to workon a healthy eating pattern, so that most of the time you’re making nutritious food choices.
Cooking Matters Link for Tips and Nutrition Basics
Apr. 19 is National Banana Day – and the banana is certainly a fruit worth celebrating! But did you know that a banana is technically not a fruit, it is really a berry. This has to do with the fact that the seeds are located inside the flesh rather than on the outside. According to registered dietitian, Jessica Bell of Eating Well, bananas are the number one fruit to eat when you are on a budget. So, go a little bananas and play some banana inspired songs – Day O by Harry Belafonte, Yes, We Have No Bananas by Louis Prima or Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears by The Monkees – and get dancing while making this delicious crumble.
Keep your bananas in a cool, dry place. To keep them from getting overripe, bananas canbe stored in the refrigerator.
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An EEO/AA institution. This material was funded, in part, by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), an equal opportunity provider.
Healthy Aging Initiative
Join us for an informative and engaging event discussing the health disparities and equity issues marginalized older adult populations face. Our expert speakers will examine Alzheimer's and related dementia, gender responsiveness and care partner violence and explore potential solutions to promote health equity for all. This event is a wonderful opportunity to gain experience from experts in the field and connect with others who are enthusiastic about promoting health equity for older adults.
Hansen, Debbie, 2023, Healthy LIVING while aging! (2023-04), Extension, University of Nevada, Reno Newsletter
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A partnership of Nevada counties; University of Nevada, Reno; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture