Seniors Who Still Drive Are Less Likely to Develop Dementia

We’re always learning about new ways to ward off dementia. Here’s a surprising one: driving!

A new study finds that driving a vehicle on a regular basis can reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly. Those who lose their license or choose to stop driving face much more rapid declines in physical and mental health.

In addition to staving off dementia, maintaining one’s driving habit into old age might offer a bevy of other health benefits, including:

  • A deceleration in the aging process
  • Higher levels of happiness
  • Lower levels of stress
  • Reduced risk of depression

The discovery is notable because so many Americans withdraw from driving as they enter old age. Seniors report increasing frustration and feelings of judgment behind the wheel, and that leads many to give up their licenses for good. That might be a mistake.

But the study’s authors are quick to urge aging Americans not to take roadway risks merely to reduce their risk of dementia. While driving can afford seniors a tremendous sense of autonomy, freedom, and control over their own lives, it is also important that they not endanger themselves or others on the road.

The consensus, then, seems to be that those who are not comfortable driving shouldn’t press themselves to do so. But by the same token, seniors shouldn’t feel compelled to give up driving prematurely either. A few extra years behind the wheel could make a big difference in mind, body, and spirit.