Most older individuals in Colorado believe that they are still fit enough to drive. Their aging bodies and minds are not enough to keep them from exercising their independence and freedom.

However, many of these people are not aware of the ways old age can impair their ability to operate their vehicles safely. With old age comes diminished health, slower response times, vision challenges and reduced decision-making and cognitive skills. These factors and more increase the risk of dangerous car accidents for seniors and others, and the issues become worse when alcohol is involved.

Old age brings natural cognitive function decline

Many older people who look and feel fine are in danger of developing cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease that affect their ability to recall details and make sound judgment calls. Additionally, as the brain ages, it starts to shrink in size. Brain cells begin to die, becoming incapable of regeneration, and memory and cognitive function start to decline.

Alcohol increases this decline

A recent British study suggests that alcohol use can also have an undesirable effect on the brains of the elderly. Some older people may consume small quantities of alcohol because they believe it can help boost their health and offer other benefits. But those supposed advantages do not outweigh the negative impact alcohol consumption has on their health and brains.

With more alcohol use, the effects are more profound. The hippocampus is the area of the brain most affected. It shrinks and atrophies much faster with moderate to heavy alcohol consumption. Seniors who regularly drink several glasses of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages a week are less likely to remember things and may also lose the ability to speak clearly and fluently. These symptoms mirror some of the effects of alcohol intoxication and can lead to the same risks when driving.

Seniors, especially those at risk of developing cognitive disorders, should consider the effects that alcohol may have on their brains. In particular, they should take into account this increased impact before they get behind the wheel to avoid putting themselves and others at risk of car accidents and injuries.

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