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Driving Linked To Independence And Life Satisfaction Even In Older Adults, Study

Update Date: Feb 08, 2016 11:48 AM EST

Surprisingly, driving not only promotes feelings of independence and life satisfaction but needs to be maintained for health, according to a study funded by the American Geriatrics Society 

While advancing age makes it difficult to drive, about 81 percent of people aged 65 and older in the U.S. hold drivers' licenses.

A team of researchers heading the study looked at 16 cases that showed that ceasing driving in old age actually led to declining health, depression, lower physical and mental health, and even a greater risk of death.

This was probably due to less out-of-home activities and social interaction.

"For many older adults, driving is more than a privilege. It is instrumental to their daily living and is a strong indicator of self-control, personal freedom, and independence," Guohua Li, senior author of the study, said in a press release. "It is almost inevitable to face the decision to stop driving during the aging process as cognitive and physical functions decline. When decision time comes, it is important to take into consideration the potential for adverse health consequences of driving cessation and to make personalized plans to maintain mobility and social activities."

Even as alternative transportation is not a major solution, it is important to continue having programs that can help to prolong their driving, and help them to maintain their social mobility, said Li.

The findings were published in the Jan. 19, 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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