Learning to drive a car is a significant rite of passage. Receiving that driver’s license symbolizes independence which no one wants to give up. We are living longer and fitter lives, and many of our parents, grandparents or other aging loved ones continue to drive well into their 80s and longer – but, should some of them be driving at all?
This step towards loss of independence can be shattering and telling parents what to do takes the delicacy of a diplomat. Older drivers are usually aware of their diminishing skills, but are reluctant to give up driving completely. Some warning signs can be subtle, like drifting into the other lane and not using turn signals, or not so subtle like close calls and traffic citations. You may have arrived at that crossroad when it is time to intervene, and help your loved one take an honest look at their driving ability.
For boomer caregivers struggling with this emotionally charged shift in the parent-child relationship, there are plenty of resources to help cope with this inevitability of aging. Especially helpful is the Hartford Insurance guidebook to initiate this process. A number of self-evaluation tools are accessible online.
Work with your parent to adjust to a life without driving. Join them while experimenting with alternative forms of transportation. Connect them to services available on the Internet like federal Eldercare Locator. Check local resources including senior centers, faith-based organizations, your city or county Area Agency on Aging, volunteer transportation programs and hospital social services. An increasing number of innovative concierge services exist like SilverRide that offer alternative transportation options. We especially like that SilverRide covers recreational outings as well as necessary errands. Both are important for continued access to the community to balance well-being.
Reinforce the fact that giving up the keys doesn’t mean the end of independence. With help from family, friends, community resources and a positive outlook, our loved ones can enjoy a connected, dignified and independent lifestyle after their “driving retirement.”