What Aging into Disability can Mean for Older Drivers

Doctor and older patient reviewing a yellow pamphlet together.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed 32 years ago on July 26, 1990. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the ADA was designed to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services.

In 2018, the CDC found that 1-in-4 Americans live with a disability that impacts daily life with 2-in-5 adults aged 65 and older effected. As one ages, they may develop a disability. This is called aging into a disability. Age-related disabilities can impact one’s visual, hearing, cognitive, and mobility capabilities and have the potential to adversely affect driving.   ChORUS talked with Dr. Anne Dickerson, a board-certified Occupational Therapist working for East Carolina University about aging into a disability and the impact it has on driving.  

Dr. Dickerson says “I am not sure older adults think of themselves as acquiring a disability.  I think it is seen as a process of aging; we have these changes due to aging.  Then there are individuals with disabilities or conditions all their life, who are aging.  Even many of those individuals don’t think about being disabled. As people age, they change and acquire medical conditions that impact their ability to continue driving.”

Occupational Therapists and Driving Rehabilitation Specialists can help people aging into or with a disability as they relate to driving. Find an OT here and a DRS here.  Because of the wide range of disabilities there is no “one size fit all” solution to aging into a disability in regards of driving. A mobility disability may need a different adaptation or accommodation then a vision disability.

The impact of aging for drivers with disabilities depends on the disability and the individual, says Dr. Dickerson, “I am not sure it is much different than other aging individuals.” 

For all aging and driving related questions, visit ChORUS at www.roadsafeseniors.org to learn more. ChORUS is constantly uploading new resources to help with all your driving and aging questions. ChORUS also offers a Transportation Planning Tool that helps individuals throughout the aging process to identify opportunities for safe mobility and plan for the road ahead.