As the number of adults over the age of 65 continues to climb, the average age of drivers on our roads today climbs too. Contrary to popular belief, the risk in having more older drivers on the roads isn’t that they cause harm to other drivers or pedestrians. According to the Institute for Highway Safety, older drivers have fewer accidents that cause harm to others than teenagers do. Older drivers are more likely to have an accident where they harm themselves.
A recent study released from MIT AgeLab and The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence shed light on the role exercise can play in older driver safety. Exercise can help improve range of motion and flexibility thereby shortening reaction time, improving how the driver responds to challenges on the road, and how they move and turn in their vehicle.
Surveyors shared three areas senior citizen drivers identified as more challenging for them:
- Turning their neck and body to look behind them when backing out of their driveway or a parking space.
- Losing their balance when getting in and out of their car.
- Turning their head to look over their shoulder when changing lanes on the highway.
With that knowledge in mind, researchers developed a series of exercises that worked on improving four areas: overall strength, flexibility, range of motion and coordination. The eight exercises they recommend are no-impact and many can even be performed while seated.
After eight to ten weeks of participating in the exercise training program, older drivers reported the following improvement:
- Greater ease in turning their head to back up and to check their blind spot.
- Better able to rotate their bodies to survey their driving environment.
- Stronger muscle tone and flexibility helped them get in and out of their car more easily.
Exercise for Mature Drivers is a free download from The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and MIT AgeLab.