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Transportation Safety: Older Adult Drivers

October 30, 2023

In 2020, there were almost 48 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. This is a 68% increase since 2000.1

Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. But the risk of being injured or killed in a traffic crash increases as people age.

Thankfully, older adults can take steps to stay safer on the roads.

Thousands of older adults are injured or killed in the United States every year in traffic crashes.

In 2020, about 7,500 older adults were killed in traffic crashes, and almost 200,000 were treated in emergency departments for crash injuries.2 This means that each day, 20 older adults are killed and almost 540 are injured in crashes.

Age, gender, and age-related changes are major risk factors.

  • Drivers aged 70+ have higher crash death rates per 1,000 crashes than middle-aged drivers (aged 35-54).3 Higher crash death rates among this age group are primarily due to increased vulnerability to injury in a crash.
  • Across all age groups, males have substantially higher crash death rates than females.4
  • Age-related changes in vision, physical functioning, and the ability to reason and remember, as well as some diseases and medications, might affect some older adults’ driving abilities.5

Key steps to staying safe on the roads.

The good news is that older adults are more likely to have safer driving behaviors than other age groups.

Taking these key steps can help adults of all ages, including older adults, stay safe on the road:

  • Always wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger
    Seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.6
  • Drive when conditions are safest
    Drive during daylight and in good weather. Conditions such as poor weather7 and driving at night8 increase the likelihood of crash injuries and deaths.
  • Don’t drink and drive
    Drinking and driving increases the risk of being in a crash because alcohol reduces coordination and impairs judgment.

Additional steps to stay safe on the road

  • Use CDC’s MyMobility Plan, a plan to stay mobile and independent as you age.
  • Follow a regular activity program to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to reduce side effects and interactions. Read the Are Your Medicines Increasing Your Risk of a Fall or a Car Crash fact sheet to learn more.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Plan your route before you drive.
  • Find the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left-turn signals, and easy parking.
  • Leave a large following distance between your car and the car in front of you.
  • Avoid distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking or texting on your phone, and eating.
  • Consider potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend, using ride share services, or taking public transit.

To learn more, please visit

RSV in Older Adults and Adults with Chronic Medical Conditions

October 23, 2023

RSV infections can be dangerous for certain adults. Each year, it is estimated that between 60,000-160,000 older adults in the United States are hospitalized and 6,000-10,000 die due to RSV infection. Adults at highest risk for severe RSV infection include:

  • Older adults
  • Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
  • Adults with weakened immune systems
  • Adults with certain other underlying medical conditions
  • Adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities

An RSV vaccine protects against serious disease

RSV vaccines can help protect adults aged 60 years and older from RSV. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if vaccination is right for you.

You can get an RSV vaccine at the same time you get other recommended vaccines, such as flu or COVID-19 vaccines. For information about where to find vaccines in your area, visit Vaccine Information for Adults | Where to Find Adult Vaccines | CDC.

Severe RSV Infection

When an adult gets RSV infection, they typically have mild cold-like symptoms, but some may develop a lung infection or pneumonia.

RSV can sometimes also lead to worsening of serious conditions such as:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a chronic disease of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe
  • Congestive heart failure – when the heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen through the body

Older adults who get very sick from RSV may need to be hospitalized. Some may even die. Older adults are at greater risk than young adults for serious complications from RSV because our immune systems weaken when we are older.

What you should do if you or a loved one is at high risk for severe RSV disease

RSV season in most regions of the U.S. starts in the fall and peaks in winter. If you are at high risk for severe RSV infection, or if you interact with an older adult, you should take extra care to keep them healthy:

  • Wash your hands often
    Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Washing your hands will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
    Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Germs spread this way.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
    Avoid close contact, such as kissing, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who have cold-like symptoms.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash afterward.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces
    Clean surfaces and objects that people frequently touch, such as toys, doorknobs, and mobile devices. When people infected with RSV touch surfaces and objects, they can leave behind germs. Also, when they cough or sneeze, droplets containing germs can land on surfaces and objects.
  • Stay home when you are sick
    If possible, stay home from work, school, and public areas when you are sick. This will help protect others from catching your illness.

To learn more, please visit

Older Adults and Extreme Cold

October 17, 2023

Older adults are more sensitive to cold (and heat) than younger adults. Body temperature below 95°F, or hypothermia, increases their risk of heart disease and kidney or liver damage, especially if they have a history of low body temperature or have had hypothermia in the past.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is often caused by being in very cold temperatures. When you are cold, you begin to lose heat faster than your body can produce it. Eventually, you will use up your stored energy, causing your body temperature to go down.

  • Hypothermia affects the brain, making it hard to move or think clearly. That’s why it’s dangerous—because you may be unaware of what’s happening and how to stop it.
  • While hypothermia is most common at very cold temperatures, it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if you become chilled from rain, sweat, or being in cold water.
  • If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, memory loss, or thyroid problems, you may take medicines that make it hard to regulate your body temperature. Ask your doctor if this is an issue for you or any questions you might have about hypothermia.

How to Tell if Someone Has Hypothermia and What to do

  • Early signs include cold feet or hands, swollen face, slower-than-normal speech, and feeling sleepy, angry, or confused. The person’s skin may become pale, and they may begin shivering.
  • Later signs include jerking movements that the person can’t control in their arms and legs, slow heartbeat, slow, shallow breathing, and going in and out of consciousness.
  • If you see someone showing signs of hypothermia, call 911. While waiting for 911:
    • Move the person to a warmer place.
    • Wrap them in warm, dry clothes,
    • If necessary, remove all clothing and make skin-to-skin contact with the person to transfer body heat. Wrap yourself and the person in dry blankets to stay warm.
    • Give them something warm to drink (no alcohol or caffeine).

Learn more about hypothermia and frostbite prevention and steps to take when you recognize someone else has hypothermia.

How to Help Someone with Dementia Avoid Hypothermia

About 1 in 4 people who have dementia live alone. People with dementia may not be aware of their surroundings. Learn how to make a home safe for someone with dementia, and use these tips to help someone with dementia stay safe during very cold weather.

  • Remove portable space heaters and don’t leave the person alone with an open fireplace. Use safety knobs and use a stove with automatic shutoff settings.
  • Advise the person to carefully use electric blankets and sheets or heating pads; explain they can cause burns.
  • Put red tape around vents, radiators, and other heating components to remind the person to avoid touching them.
  • Keep the water heater set to 120°F to prevent burns. Consider installing faucets that mix hot and cold water.
  • Leave an extra house key outside the home in case a caregiver or emergency responder needs to get inside.

How to Avoid Hypothermia at Home When It’s Very Cold Outside

You can get hypothermia while indoors if outside cold weather persists or when you are working in cold environments, such as a storage freezer.  Use the steps below to prevent hypothermia while indoors.

  • Eat a healthy diet every day to make sure your body has enough energy to keep you warm.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Wear warm, thick clothing, including a hat and scarf if needed. Try to keep a blanket nearby.
  • If you live alone, ask friends and family to check on you.
  • Check your thermostat or an easy-to-read indoor thermometer often. If you don’t have an easy-to-read thermometer, try to have one installed if possible.
    • Keep the house around 68°F to 70°F.
      • Maintain your heating and air conditioning system.
      • Block off any unused rooms and drafts from windows and doors.
      • If you use a fireplace or wood stove as your main heating source, have your chimney or flue inspected every year.
      • If your home doesn’t hold heat well, have the insulation checked.

Financial help is sometimes available for people who can’t afford to weatherize their home or pay their heating bills.

For financial help getting your windows, doors, and furnace checked to make sure they are cold-weather-ready, or for other weather-related changes to your home, contact your local Weatherization Assistance Program.

For help with your energy bills, contact:

If you are using a portable heater, here are 7 Safety Tips from Consumer Product Safety Commission.

How to Avoid Hypothermia if you Go Outside During Cold Winter

  • Wear warm, thick clothing, including a hat, scarf, and gloves, as well as loose layers to increase the amount of body heat.
  • Change your clothes as soon as you get inside. Wearing wet clothes causes your body temperature to drop. Dry clothes allow your body to

warm itself.

  • If you drive somewhere, be prepared in case you get stranded.
    • Keep warm blankets and clothing in your car.
    • Keep food and water in your car.
    • Keep a phone charger in your car.
    • Take any necessary medicines with you.

Create a winter emergency supply kit to keep in your car

How to Avoid Falling if You Go Outside in Icy Weather

During the winter months, it’s important to make sure that surfaces are dry and safe for walking to reduce the risk of falling. These tips can you help prevent falls in icy and snowy weather:

  • Make sure there is enough lighting outdoors, especially near walkways and stairs. Low lighting is a major cause of falls. Motion-sensor lights might be useful.
  • Keep outside walkways and steps clear of snow, ice, and any objects
  • If your home’s main entrance is often icy during the winter months, use a different entrance if you can.
  • Make sure your steps are sturdy and have textured grip to reduce falls if the weather is icy or wet.
  • If you use walking aids such as a cane, walker, or a wheelchair, dry the wheels or tips of each before entering your home.
  • Keep a small table or shelf near the entry door to put items while unlocking the door. This reduces distractions and dangers of slipping or tripping while trying to enter your home.

How You Can Help an Older Adult Avoid Hypothermia

As a friend, family member, or caregiver to an older adult during the winter months, you can:

  • Consider having a remote indoor air temperature sensor or monitor installed.
  • Have the name and contact information of a nearby family member or friend who can regularly check in on them.
  • Create a care plan with them to provide structure for both of you. The care plan should include ways to maintain a healthy body temperature and note if any medicines they take affect their ability to regulate body temperature.
  • If you are checking in on an older adult, try to check in on them in person or by telephone as often as possible or at agreed times to make sure they:
    • Are staying hydrated.
    • Have the living space set to a comfortable temperature.
    • Are keeping warm.
    • Don’t show signs of hypothermia.

To learn more, please visit

Older Adults and Social Isolation

October 9, 2023

Loneliness and social isolation in older adults are serious public health risks affecting a significant number of people in the United States and putting them at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions.

report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) points out that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.1 Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.

Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. Social isolation is a lack of social connections. Social isolation can lead to loneliness in some people, while others can feel lonely without being socially isolated.

Health Risks of Loneliness

Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.1
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.1
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.1
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.1

Immigrant, LGBT People Are at Higher Risk

The report highlights loneliness among vulnerable older adults, including immigrants; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations; minorities; and victims of elder abuse. It also points out that the literature base for these populations is sparse and more research is needed to determine risks, impacts, and appropriate actions needed.

Current research suggests that immigrant, and lesbian, gay, bisexual populations experience loneliness more often than other groups. Latino immigrants, for example, “have fewer social ties and lower levels of social integration than US-born Latinos.” First-generation immigrants experience stressors that can increase their social isolation, such as language barriers, differences in community, family dynamics, and new relationships that lack depth or history, the report states. Similarly, gay, lesbian, and bisexual populations tend to have more loneliness than their heterosexual peers because of stigma, discrimination, and barriers to care.

What Can You Do If You Are Experiencing Loneliness?

Your doctor can assess your risk for loneliness and social isolation and get you connected to community resources for help, if needed. The following national organizations also offer helpful resources:

AARP—Provides helpful information to seniors to help improve quality of life and provides access to Community Connection Tools.

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)—A network of over 620 organizations across America that provides information and assistance with programs including nutrition and meal programs (counseling and home-delivered or group meals), caregiver support, and more. The website can help you find your local AAA, which may provide classes in Tai Chi and diabetes self-management.

Eldercare Locator—A free national service that helps find local resources for seniors such as financial support, caregiving services, and transportation. It includes a brochure that shows how volunteering can help keep you socially connected.

National Council on Aging—Works with nonprofit organizations, governments, and businesses to provide community programs and services. This is the place to find what senior programs are available to assist with healthy aging and financial security, including the Aging Mastery Program® that is shown to increase social connectedness and healthy eating habits.

National Institute on Aging (NIA)– Provides materials on social isolation and loneliness for older adults, caregivers, and health care providers. Materials include health information, a print publication available to view or order no-cost paper copies, a health care provider flyer, and social media graphics and posts.

Health Care System Interventions Are Key

People generally are social by nature, and high-quality social relationships can help them live longer, healthier lives. Health care systems are an important, yet underused, partner in identifying loneliness and preventing medical conditions associated with loneliness.

Nearly all adults aged 50 or older interact with the health care system in some way. For those without social connections, a doctor’s appointment or visit from a home health nurse may be one of the few face-to-face encounters they have. This represents a unique opportunity for clinicians to identify people at risk for loneliness or social isolation.

NASEM recommends that clinicians periodically assess patients who may be at risk and connect them to community resources for help. In clinical settings, NASEM recommends using the Berkman-Syme Social Network Index (for measuring social isolation) and the three-item UCLA Loneliness Scale (for measuring loneliness).

But patients must make their own decisions. Some people may like being alone. It is also important to note that social isolation and loneliness are two distinct aspects of social relationships, and they are not significantly linked. Both can put health at risk, however.

To learn more, please visit

Supporting Caregivers for Older Adults

October 2, 2023

An Emerging Public Health Issue

Millions of older adults and people with disabilities could not maintain their independence without the help of unpaid caregivers. This care would cost nearly $470 billion a year if purchased. That’s one of the reasons that caregiving is an essential public health service and should be prioritized as an emerging public health issue [PDF – 1 MB].1

Caregivers are family members or friends who typically provide unpaid, long-term, community-based care and assistance to older adults and people with chronic health conditions or disabilities.  Caregivers help with a variety of routine tasks such as shopping, paying bills, bathing, dressing, and managing medicines.  They are often a source of emotional support and companionship for care recipients.

Caregivers: A Snapshot

Increasing Demand for Caregivers

The need for caregivers is growing along with the aging of the US population. The number of caregivers increased from 43.5 million in 2015 to about 53 million in 2020, or more than 1 in 5 Americans.3 By 2030, an estimated 73 million people in the United States will be 65 years or older.4 Many will require daily assistance from at least one caregiver to maintain quality of life, independence, and physical and social well-being. More than two-thirds of the US population will likely need help with tasks at some point in their lifetime.5

Benefits of Caregiving for Recipients and Caregivers

Caregiving allows recipients to:

  • Retain their quality of life and independence.
  • Avoid living in a group setting (institutionalization).
  • Have less depression.
  • Self-manage their chronic conditions better.

Caregiving can also benefit caregivers by helping them:

  • Increase their self-confidence and fulfillment from helping others.
  • Start or add to social networks of friendships associated with caregiving.
  • Feel needed and useful.
  • Learn and develop new skills.

Caregiving Burdens and Stress

Caregiving is also a public health concern because it can lead to physical, emotional, psychological, and financial strain.  Providing personal care and helping with behavioral and cognitive issues can be stressful for caregivers and result in depression and anxiety. Nearly 1 in 5 caregivers reports fair or poor health.6 Caregivers often neglect their own health needs, increasing their risk of having multiple chronic conditions. Nearly 2 in 5 caregivers have at least two chronic diseases:

  • 1 in 7 caregivers has heart disease and/or stroke.
  • 1 in 5 caregivers aged 65 and older have coronary heart disease and/or stroke.

A recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found nearly 1 in 4 US caregivers says caregiving has made their health worse.3

Financial Strains of Caregiving

Caregiving can have a negative financial effect on caregivers. Many employed caregivers have had to leave work early or take time away from work, resulting in lost wages. Nearly 2 in 10 employed caregivers had to stop working, while 4 in 10 had to reduce their working hours to care for a loved one.7 Caregivers sometimes pay out-of-pocket for caregiving services, meals, medical supplies, and other expenses. Almost 80% of caregivers report paying out-of-pocket for routine expenses for care recipients. The average annual out-of-pocket cost for caregivers is $7,200, and this cost rises to nearly $9,000 per year for caregivers of someone with dementia. 8

How to Support Caregivers?

  • Help them with errands, chores, and other tasks.
  • Provide emotional and social support.
  • Negotiate times to check in on them.
  • Make sure they are managing their own health care needs.
  • Help them create and manage a care plan for the person they care for.
  • Encourage them to seek mental health services if necessary.

If you are a caregiver, read about respite care.

To learn more, please visit