The sight of a senior citizen in black leathers happily guiding a Harley down the highway is an inspiration. At the very least, it shows that the so-called "golden years" need not be boring.
However, such a ride is not always smooth sailing. Older motorcyclists risk injuries associated with age. Studies comparing injury rates for different age groups find that older bikers are more at risk for serious injuries or death due to physiological issues.
Risks for all riders
Over the past 20 years, there has been a marked increase in the average age of motorcycle riders. By the time a person reaches retirement age, both money and time are available for the pursuit of hobbies like motorcycle riding.
A study published in the medical journal Injury Prevention shows that from 2001 to 2008, riders between the ages of 20 and 39 were involved in 921,229 accidents, compared to only 65,660 crashes involving the over-60 crowd. However, this latter group suffered more severe injuries and spent more time in the hospital.
The effects of aging
The physiological effects of aging result in a variety of health issues, including decrease of bone strength, worsening vision and altered balance. Survival following a serious motorcycle crash might be complicated by any pre-existing health conditions an older biker may have, whereas most younger bikers do not yet carry such medical baggage.
Many older riders suffer head and chest injuries. The latter occurs because with age comes a decrease in chest wall elasticity. Given the very real possibility of these serious injuries, researchers encourage older people to wear helmets and chest protection when riding.
As if recovering from serious injuries was not sufficiently agonizing and time-consuming, older motorcyclists often face the frustration of having to wrangle with insurance companies. Many injured parties seek legal assistance in dealing with agents who are all too eager to pin the blame for a car-motorcycle crash on the elderly biker. Seeking full and just compensation is a worthwhile undertaking, one that some older bikers see as adding some spice to their golden years.