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Expert Insights

Analysis of trends in senior care, advice for people coping with an aging patent, and health advice for seniors.

Five-year plan enhances road safety for senior drivers

Safe roads for seniorsAs we age, our eyesight tends to decline while our reflexes begin to slow. While this prompts many seniors to hang up the car keys for good, others continue driving well into their golden years, leaving many concerned about their safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of older drivers increased 21 percent between 2003 and 2012. With the population of senior drivers rising, the number of senior driving accidents is also climbing—from the previous year, 2012 saw a three percent hike in fatalities and a 16 percent hike in injuries related to car accidents involving seniors.

Thankfully, the NHTSA came up with a five-year strategic plan to minimize the risks for older drivers and enhance their safety on the road. The plan focuses on three main areas:

Seniors enjoy better mental health than previous generations

Seniors enjoy better mental health than previous generations It perhaps comes as no surprise that we’re living longer than ever before. In 1900, the average life expectancy for men was only 46! Now, most men live to 79, and still others become thriving octogenarians.

The good news is that not only has life expectancy dramatically increased, our mental health has also significantly improved; according to a group of researchers from France, seniors today are experiencing delayed cognitive impairment compared to previous generations.

Between 1991 and 1997, 204 French seniors participated in tests measuring their cognitive functioning. Between 2008 and 2009, a new group of 177 seniors took these same tests. Researchers compared the data and discovered the latter group had higher overall scores.

Help seniors fight loneliness

Prevent loneliness among seniorsLoneliness and depression are devastating for anyone, but can be particularly damaging for aging adults, as it takes a heavy toll on their physical health.

Many studies have shown that loneliness among seniors contributes to an onslaught of health problems, including hardened arteries and higher blood pressure, problems with the hypothalamus, and a weakened immune system, compromising the body’s ability to fight infections.

Even more troublesome are the results of a recent study on seniors and loneliness; published in the journal Social Sciences & Medicine, the study of 2,100 older Americans found, “Those who reported the most intense feelings of loneliness were nearly twice as likely to die as those who didn’t.”

Social media usage soars among seniors

Seniors on Social MediaIt might surprise you to hear that seniors are the fastest growing demographic using social media. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, only about a sixth of older Americans were using the internet in March 2000, but now, more than 50 percent comfortably navigate the web.

Why are seniors the fastest growing segment of social media users? Two reasons. First, as younger Americans are well-saturated with digital technology, there’s not really room for their usage to expand. Second, as baby boomers enter their golden years, they’re doing so with far more familiarity with technology than previous generations.

Driverless cars promote seniors’ independence

Seniors and DrivingDriving provides us with a stronger sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, with deteriorating eyesight and slower reflexes, many people face giving up their car keys as they age.  

Relinquishing driving privileges is a difficult decision for many seniors, especially those who strongly value self-reliance. Giving up the car keys means they have to rely on others to get to the grocery store, doctors' appointments, dates with friends, and other errands and meetings.  

Within the next few years, there might be a new solution that would allow seniors to reclaim the independence that comes with driving: computer-operated autonomous vehicles. In other words, self-driving cars.