Can a better understanding of how dementia affects decisions about driving help older adults self-assess their ability to drive safely?
Lisa J. Molnar, Ph.D.
The Regents of the University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI - United States
As people age, most will experience a decline in the visual, cognitive and motor skills needed to drive safely. The ability of an individual to modify their driving behavior (e.g. driving less, not driving at night, or even discontinuing driving) in response to declining abilities is called “self-regulation.” A diagnosis of dementia is challenging for an individual that drives because it not only affects the cognitive skills needed for driving, but can also impact the ability to self-regulate and determine when it is no longer safe to drive. A better understanding of how Alzheimer’s affects self-regulation may help extend the period of time in which people with dementia can safely drive as well as ease the transition to non-driving.
Lisa J. Molnar, Ph.D., and colleagues aim to better understand how older adults with and without dementia modify their driving routine as a result of declining abilities. The Advanced Driving Decisions and Patterns of Travel (ADDAPT) questionnaire developed and tested in the United States and Australia will be used to understand this transition process. The researchers will study the differences in driving patterns between two groups of drivers age 65 and older — those diagnosed with early-stage dementia and those that are cognitively healthy. They will use this information to determine differences in self-regulation and make recommendations for helping older drivers decide when they can still drive safely or when best to limit or stop driving.
The study results will help researchers better understand how dementia impacts the ability of older drivers to continue to drive safely and to judge their own driving abilities, respectively. These results will inform the development of a large-scale study to examine these processes in greater detail. It is important to understand the transition process to non-driving and if possible, extend the time period over which people with early-stage dementia can safely drive so they can maintain mobility and independence.
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