Most of us learn to drive at a young age. By the time you’re a mature adult, the act of driving may feel so ingrained that you might not realize just how much concentration it takes. But, driving requires quick reflexes and more muscle than you might expect! After all, a car is a big machine.
But what happens when you don’t drive for long periods of time?
Unfortunately, driving falls into the “use it or lose it” category. Though it might seem like it’s as easy to remember as riding a bike, cars have a lot more to remember than bikes. Many of us are driving less than usual. This also means we may not enjoy the same strength and flexibility we did when we were driving more.
However, strength and flexibility are both important! Not only do you need leg and arm strength to maneuver a car’s pedals and steering wheel, you also need to be able to turn your head and torso to check for other cars and gauge turns.
There are other health factors that are just as important, including vision and hearing as well as mental health. The last one may seem surprising, but consider the ability to focus, make decisions, and anticipate or judge different situations. All three are important for your safety and the safety of other drivers.
To preserve your driving skills, consider taking a defensive driving course. These are typically available online, and are quite common these days. For example, AARP has a Smart Driver course, but many insurance companies offer them, too. (Completing a course might even net you a discount on your insurance rate!)
As strength and flexibility tend to decline with age, it’s also important to take steps to stay in shape. Staying active doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it can be as easy as taking a few laps around the house and heading up and down the stairs a couple times. Make an effort to stretch, even if it’s just to reach up and grab something out of a cupboard. As we explained before, moderate exercise can be a dedicated fitness routine, but it can also mean gardening or vacuuming for half an hour.
Many older adults fear losing their license. But getting older doesn’t automatically make you unfit to drive. It just means that it’s important to take steps to preserve the skills you already have.