PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When are people too old to drive? It’s an issue that a growing number of families are facing with more people living longer.
It’s a struggle between independence and safety. More than 41 million drivers over the age of 65 are on the road today. Most are fine, but experts say a few shouldn’t be behind the wheel.
It can be a tricky situation for families to confront.
Joan Mastrianni, now 86 years old, has been driving for six decades since she was in her early 20s.
And while she still hits the road with her 89-year-old husband Anthony Mastrianni to run simple errands, it worries her daughter Kathleen Powers and her siblings.
“You don’t want to wait until an accident happens in order to make that decision,” said Powers. “You want to be able to make that decision on your own.”
“We’re not going that far but to be able to go to the library and to church and the grocery store is important,” said Mastrianni.
Deciding when to give up the keys is a personal matter that experts say should not be taken lightly.
“When we get a driver’s license, it’s considered a big part of becoming an adult,” said Dr. Louise Aronson. “So losing your driver’s license feels like the opposite of that.”
At this class, senior citizens like Lois and Murray Schnipper are brushing up on their skills.
The educational course gives them a refresher on the rules of the road – like stopping for three seconds, checking their shoulder and keeping their eyes on the road.
“We sort of warn each other about certain things now, like I say, ‘Lois, you shouldn’t be talking with your hands while you’re driving,” said Murray Schnipper.
Experts say taking keys away from seniors can be detrimental to their health.
“It decreases ability to get to work, to have fulfilling social lives, older adults who are socially isolated have huge health risks,” said Aronson.
The Mastriannis don’t want to give up driving just yet, but they have a backup plan ready for when they have to.
“We have Uber around here and all,” said Anthony Mastrianni. “If we have to ultimately do that.”
Experts say there really is no specific age when people should stop driving, but medical conditions need to be considered.
If there’s a question, you can have them take a driving test or enroll in driver safety courses.
But when in doubt, have someone else do the driving.