By the year 2030 it is estimated that one in five licensed drivers in the United States will be over the age of 65. Driving allows engagement in the community for shopping, banking, maintaining social connections, and accessing health care. However, age-related decline can impact many of the cognitive processes and physical abilities necessary for safe driving performance. Exercise has beneficial effects on specific cognitive processes and physical function, many of which are related to safe driving performance. Tai Chi exercise is known to benefit cognitive and physical function and may influence safe driving performance. The aims of this observational study were to: 1) examine relationships between Tai Chi exercise habits, cognitive processes and physical function related to safe driving performance, 2) compare cognitive processes and physical function related to safe driving performance to normative reference values, and 3) explore potential predictors of safe driving performance. Fifty-eight current Tai Chi practitioners (mean age = 72.9), with a median of greater than three years of Tai Chi practice were recruited from community Tai Chi classes and Tai Chi events. Participants completed a study packet describing self-reported Tai Chi and non-Tai Chi exercise habits, driving habits, self-report measures of dispositional mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, MAAS) and overall well-being (Vitality Plus Scale, VPS), personal history, and health history. Investigator-administered study measures included the DrivingHealth InventoryTM, digit span tests, the Driving Scenes Test, and the Right Foot Tapping test. Statistically significant correlations were found between several study measures. Compared to normative reference values participants performed better on several cognitive and physical measures, and on the MAAS and the VPS measures. Small to large effect sizes were calculated. The strongest predictor of safe driving performance was the digit span backward. Tai Chi exercise has the potential to positively impact cognitive processes and physical function related to safe driving performance through aerobic exercise mechanisms, development of mindfulness, and beneficial influence on overall vitality. The results of this study support the need for further investigation of Tai Chi exercise as a strategy to maintain safe driving performance in older adults.
|Advisor:||Taylor-Piliae, Ruth E.|
|Commitee:||Insel, Kathleen C., Reed, Pamela G.|
|School:||The University of Arizona|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||DAI-B 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Gerontology, Nursing, Recreation|
|Keywords:||Driving, Exercise, Older adults, Physical activity, Tai chi|
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