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Aging and Driving

Should you or your loved ones be behind the wheel?

Aging and driving

Vibrant and active, 86-year-old Hazel drove her car onto a curb one day and hit a fire hydrant. While no one was hurt, the incident greatly concerned Hazel’s family. Broaching the topic of driving safety with a loved one, though, can be difficult.

The driving rehabilitation program at Rush is designed to assess individuals’ independence and safety in either returning to driving or continuing to drive.

Here, the team behind the program (including occupational therapists Melissa Dappen, OTR/L, and Megan Chamberlain, OTR/L, and social worker Karen Lukaszewski, LCSW) offers their insights about driving and aging.

Having the talk

Almost nothing says independence like driving wherever and whenever we want. As we age, that measure of independence becomes increasingly fragile. For some older adults, driving becomes increasingly difficult due to health problems.

Sometimes loved ones or medical providers notice changes in a person’s ability to drive safely. If someone you care about is having a harder time driving safely, it can be a challenge to approach the subject.

The most important thing to remember is to respect the dignity of the individual who may be having problems driving. It is equally important to understand the fundamental fact that safety is the priority. Before entering the discussion, it is helpful to do a little research.


 Publications are available to help in assessing driving safety, such as a checklist developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AARP developed a brochure, “Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully.”

AARP also offers driver safety courses which could make a person eligible for discounts on auto insurance or on roadside assistance plans.

Another option is a driver safety evaluation, which is ordered by a physician. This is a process whereby a person meets with an occupational therapist and a driving rehabilitation specialist. The results of this two-step evaluation are sent to the physician who meets with the driver to discuss recommendations about whether the person is safe to drive or not.

Driving no longer an option?

Driving is not the only way to get from point A to point B. Most cities have public transportation, with options available for people with disabilities as well. Many social workers can help find ways to get to medical appointments or other community locations.

For more information about the driving rehabilitation program at Rush, call (312) 942-6967. 

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