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It's dangerous to mom's and dad's health to take away their car keys

Harsha KR
Flickr/creative commons

It can certainly be risky to keep an older loved one behind the wheel if he or she is no longer driving safely.

It can also be risky to take away the keys. Social isolation and the many ills associated with social isolation can be the result.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Columbia University have released a new study showing serious health risks for older people who stop driving, including declines in cognitive ability, diminished productivity, and a 51% decrease in social networks.

"Their risk of depression nearly doubles," says Susan Hiltz of AAA Michigan. "And they're five times as likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility."

The report urges families to plan ahead – first, by taking steps to keep the elderly person behind the wheel as long as possible, using additional driver education, medication checkups, and seat and safety enhancements to the car.

Once someone does stop driving, says Hiltz, there are a number of things people can do to help elderly people stay active and connected. That can include accompanying the elderly person when they first start using public transportation, providing rides from family members, or encouraging a non-driver to move to a walkable community.

AAA has some tips to help people prepare, including this Driver Planning Agreement that older drivers and family members can fill out in advance.