OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of driving in older adults with mild to moderate physical frailty and to compare characteristics of current frail older adult drivers with those of former drivers in the sample.
DESIGN: Retrospective study of frail older adults enrolled in randomized trials of exercise and hormone replacement therapy.
SETTING: Urban, academic medical center.
PARTICIPANTS: One hundred eighty-three sedentary community-dwelling men and women aged 75 and older with mild to moderate physical frailty, as defined by two of the following three criteria: modified Physical Performance Test (PPT) score between 18 and 32, peak oxygen uptake (VO2) between 10 and 18 mL/kg per minute, and self-report of difficulty or assistance with one activity of daily living (ADL) or two instrumental ADLs. Participants were classified as current or former drivers.
MEASUREMENTS: Demographic characteristics, medical diagnoses, medication use, modified PPT score, and psychometric tests.
RESULTS: The majority (85%) of the participants were drivers. Former drivers were more likely to be older, be female, reside in congregate independent living for the elderly, have a higher incidence of arthritis and congestive heart failure, take sedating medications, have lower total ADL scores, have lower VO2 peak scores, and have more impairment on tests of cognition and physical strength, although only age, type of residence, and grip strength were independent predictors of driving cessation in the regression analysis.
CONCLUSION: Despite the presence of physical frailty, many older adults choose to continue to drive. Further studies are needed to better understand the driving behaviors of frail older adults and explore opportunities for optimizing driving abilities.