As we age, the prospect of giving up our car keys can be tremendously upsetting. The ability to drive, especially for Americans, often represents independence, freedom, social connection and vitality. As long as you can get out into the world, you still belong in it.
In fact, a 2015 study showed that older adults who stopped driving were nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression and almost five times as likely to go into a long-term care facility as those who still drove. So it was with great interest that I read about recent research suggesting that brain exercises could help keep older adults in the driver’s seat longer.
The Brain Training and Driving Study
The study involved a group of about 2,400 healthy adults 65 and older who were currently driving. A portion received cognitive training in either reasoning, memory or speed of processing. The rest received no training.
Those who completed the reasoning and speed of processing training were 55 percent and 49 percent less likely to stop driving within 10 years, respectively. Those in the memory training group experienced “no significant effects,” the study said.
Some of the participants in the speed of processing group received “booster” training sessions. Their group was 70 percent less likely to stop driving within 10 years.
Signal of Decline
“Driving cessation has huge ramifications for seniors,” said Lesley A. Ross, a Penn State assistant professor of human development and family studies who conducted the study with colleagues, in a Penn State press release. “It signals an end to freedom, acting as a concrete acknowledgement that you’re declining.”
The study concludes by saying the reasoning and speed of processing training “should be recommended to older adults at risk for mobility decline due to cognitive difficulties.”
The study was published in the current issue of The Gerontologist.
Read more about it in this Huffington Post article.