Entries in Seniors (5)


How Old Is Too Old to Drive?

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A driver who will be 101 in September backed out of a parking lot near an elementary school in Los Angeles, plowing into 11 people, including nine children.  Fortunately no one died as a result of the incident on Wednesday, but it highlights the challenge that aging drivers and their families face in deciding when it’s time to get off the road.

Although they only account for about nine percent of the population, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show senior drivers account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

A recent report by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the rate of deaths involving drivers 75 to 84 is about three per million miles driven -- on par with teen drivers. Once they pass age 85, vehicular fatality rates jump to nearly four times that of teens.

Richard Nix, executive director of, says many senior drivers don’t realize their eyesight, hearing and reflexes aren’t as sharp as they used to be. They may be taking medication that impairs judgment, memory or coordination, or suffer from arthritis or Alzheimer’s. Consequently they may not realize it when they blow past a stop sign, forget to signal a right turn or confuse the gas pedal with the brake.

Even when they admit to themselves that they’re driving skills may not be up to par, some older drivers are still reluctant to hand over their keys. According to Nix, loss of driving privileges is a difficult and emotional issue for many.

“People have been driving their whole life and have trouble believing they’re incapable of continuing,” he said. “They feel like their independence has been taken away.”

And Nix points out, it’s frequently a difficult subject for loved ones to face as well. They may feel a pang of fear every time their elderly parent gets behind the wheel but are reluctant to confront them for fear of hurting their feelings.

Nix says that if need be enlist the help of other family members, friends or their physician when a loved one presents a danger on the road. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to take legal action, though laws vary from state to state.

Whether an elderly driver comes to the conclusion on their own that it’s time to surrender their license or they’re forced to do so, it’s a big moment and it can be devastating. But the consequences of not doing so may be even more devastating. offers the following advice for senior drivers to evaluate when it’s time to stop driving:

  • Conditions like cataracts and glaucoma can diminish sight and hamper driving ability. An eye doctor can help establish whether your sight is good enough to drive safely.
  • Many older drivers no longer have the strength or dexterity to handle a car. They may shrink in height so much they can no longer see over the windshield. This is especially true for seniors who do little or no physical activity.
  • Alzheimer’s can impair memory and judgment. Diabetics risk falling into a coma while driving. Even if you have long periods of time when health issues cause no problems, why risk it?
  • Medications, especially multiple medications, can greatly impair driving ability. Your doctor should advise you of the dangers your medications present while driving.
  • If the minor fender-benders are adding up or you simply feel less confident about driving, it’s OK to admit it to yourself that your driving days are over.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Older Adults Pick Better Online Passwords

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The old adage, “With age comes wisdom,” continues to be true, even in this youth-oriented tech-savvy world. A new study finds that people over the age of 55 are far better at choosing secure passwords than teens and young adults.

In a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, computer scientist Joseph Bonneau analyzed password data from 70 million Yahoo users and found the passwords of older adults are twice as strong as those under the age of 25.

The study also discovered that people who changed their passwords frequently were more likely to have stronger passwords.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Mental Slowdown Can Begin in the 40s

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Call them senior moments, mental glitches or simple forgetfulness -- many people have experienced the mental slowdown that can come with age.

New research finds that these cognitive slips can begin as early as age 45.  But whether they are the result of dementia, cardiovascular disease or simply getting older is not clear.

Researchers studied a group of nearly 7,500 British government employees between the ages of 45 and 70, periodically testing their memories, reasoning, vocabulary and comprehension skills for 10 years.

Overall, the 45- to 49-year-olds showed a decline of nearly 4 percent on average in their cognitive capabilities over 10 years.

That amount of decline is probably not enough to cause impairment in daily life, said study author Archana Singh-Manoux, research director of the Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at Hopital Paul Brousse near Paris -- but it could be an important red flag for future problems.

"This might well be part of the normal aging process," Singh-Manoux said. "However, other studies have shown that small differences in cognition might translate to greater differences in risk of dementia at older ages."

The study participants' cognition slipped even further as they got older.  By age 65, men's cognitive performance declined by almost 10 percent, and women's dropped by 7.5 percent.

According to Singh-Manoux, this study, published Friday in the British Medical Journal, is the first to document cognitive declines at such a young age.

"The understanding of cognitive aging so far was of no cognitive decline until age 60," she said.  "Our study shows that this is not the case. Cognitive function begins to decline earlier."

But how much that mental drop-off indicates a slide into more debilitating dementia is unclear.  The current study didn't measure how many of the participants went on to develop dementia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is 90 the New 85? Census Finds More Americans Living Longer

Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- There are two million people in the U.S. who are at least 90 years old, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.  That's three times the number than in 1980.

With the way things are going, the government predicts there will be about eight million people in the 90-plus category by 2050.

In its first-ever report on nonagenarians, the Census Bureau says this is the fastest growing segment of the population.  The government had to revise its findings because the "oldest old" used to be 85.

[Click here to read the full report]

As might be expected, these elderly folks are not without health complications.  Virtually all of the 90-plus crowd who live in nursing homes have at least one disability, while four out of five who live elsewhere also have to deal with one or more disabilities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Florida Health Officials Say Have That Sex Talk With Grandpa

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Alana, a 63-year-old from New York, sent an article underlining pertinent facts on the rising rate of sexually transmitted diseases among seniors to her mother, a widow in her 80s living in a 50-plus senior complex in Florida.

The former teacher, who asked that her real name not be used, hoped to inform her independent mother, who had started dating again and had a new boyfriend. But Alana was not prepared for her mother's response.

"She called me and was indignant and claimed that she and her 'friend' did not have sex," Alana said. "I have no idea if she was telling me the truth, but it's possible she was. She did, however, tell me that the very few men who lived in her senior development were in high demand and that many of them went out with multiple partners."

"Now, 'went out' with might have been code for sex, but I'm not really sure," she said. "I think the advent of Viagra and similar drugs has made possible what was once unlikely."

She's right. Sex and sexually transmitted diseases are not just for the young anymore. Drugs such as Viagra for men and hormone supplements for women mean that Americans are staying active well into their 60s, 70s and even 80s.

And now some health officials have launched a multi-pronged prevention program aimed squarely at senior citizens, including reversing the tables and asking "children" to have those awkward conversations with their aging parents.

The Florida Department of Health is encouraging younger people to talk to their older parents about sex, the talk they once received as children, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

In 2009, nearly 20 percent of all new HIV and 25 percent of all AIDS diagnoses in Florida were in those older than 50. More than half of the cases were among those who live in South Florida, according to the Broward County Health Department.

Some state projections say that the majority of people with the disease will be seniors by the year 2015.

Many older Americans are now sexually active, but might not be practicing safe sex. They might be less knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and therefore less likely to protect themselves with condoms or seek testing, health experts say.

That trend is also reflected nationally. In 2005, 15 percent of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses were among those older than 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC).

"For many people, when we discuss this at senior complexes or groups, no one's ever had this discussion with them," Evelyn Ullah, the STD, HIV and AIDS prevention director with the Broward County Health Department, told the Miami Herald. "As a result, they don't perceive themselves at risk."

Bob Brand, a dapper 91-year-old and Holocaust survivor from Valhalla, N.Y., was equally surprised by the news that seniors are at risk for HIV/AIDS.

His wife died three years ago and women eager to date swarmed to his door.

"I had been married to my wife and never had any problems with her," said Brand, a former elevator company owner who hadn't thought much about sexually transmitted diseases since he served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

"I am really surprised," he said. "You know sexual activity now is totally different than it was in our lives. People do it a lot more than we ever did. It's hard to understand."

Health experts say younger Americans who are newer to the dating scene are probably in the best position to address these delicate issues so openly with their older family members.

"It's going to be embarrassing," said Marlene LaLota, HIV prevention director for the state, who said leaving literature on the table can also get the conversation going.

"Anything that gets the ball rolling," LaLota told the Miami Herald. "Remember, the roles were reversed once upon a time, where it was the mother having the conversation with the daughter 30 or 40 years ago."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio