Although the slower driving habits of some seniors often steam impatient younger motorists, researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found that elders who stay behind the wheel are less likely to enter nursing homes or assisted living centers than those who have never driven or who have given up driving altogether.
The Hopkins study findings, published in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health, included extensive interviews conducted over a 10-year period with 1,593 seniors between 65 and 84 years of age who live in the small, Eastern Shore town of Salisbury, Md.
"We are not recommending continuation of driving for seniors who are a threat to themselves or others on the road," said Ellen Freeman, Ph.D., an epidemiological researcher now working with the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and the study's lead author. "Instead, we hope that understanding the very real health impact that losing the ability to drive has on seniors will encourage families to plan contingencies to assist elderly members with transportation issues."
The researchers also pointed out that losing the ability to drive poses an especially significant hardship to seniors living in isolated rural areas or any place without good, accessible public transportation for the elderly.
"We set out to learn whether or not the loss of driving ability played a measurable role in an older person's eventual need for long-term care," said Sheila West, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "The independence that accompanies a driver's license and car has long been linked anecdotally to a better quality of life for seniors."
Freeman and others on the Hopkins team stressed that from both a personal and public policy standpoint, the need is greater than ever to figure out what best and safely helps older people keep an independent lifestyle. "The average annual cost of nursing home admission is $69,000, and the price tag associated with entry into assisted living is roughly $30,000," she noted. "That's a public policy issue of huge dimensions as our population ages."
"This probably isn't so much about the process of driving but rather the larger issue of mobility as it relates to a person's independence," added Freeman. "When someone becomes a shut-in due to the loss of their primary transportation, the likelihood that they will require living assistance categorically increases."
Non-drivers across the entire age group studied had four times the risk of long-term care entry compared to drivers, and the absence of other drivers in the home doubled the risk of entering long-term care. Nine percent of those studied entered long-term care for three months or more. By the end of the study, 29 percent of men and 58 percent of women had no other drivers in the household, and 22 percent of people who were driving at the beginning of the study reported that they stopped driving during the study.
Freeman and her colleagues said their study methods took into account and factored out many other causes of "long-term care entry," including age, race, marital status and such health problems as frailty, dementia and stroke damage. There were no significant differences in outcomes between men and women.
"These findings point to the importance of research into how to keep seniors driving and independent as long as is safely possible," said West, director of the Johns Hopkins Initiative for Translational Research on Driving and the study's senior author.
Salisbury, the site of the 10-year study, is a semirural town of about 40,000 people. Freeman cautioned that because no formal public transportation system was available to the residents of the town, the findings of the study should only be interpreted as meaningful for communities of similar size that also lack public transportation infrastructure.
Jeff Ventura | EurekAlert!
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences