Families slowly transition their teenagers into driving, but many don’t talk about transitioning their senior loved ones out of driving. While nearly one-third of surveyed seniors said that a recommendation from family or friends may make them reconsider driving, most seniors (95%) have not had these conversations. Of those who have, drivers 85 years or older are the ones who have most often received the suggestion to stop or limit their driving.
Don't jump to conclusions and assume a senior is an unsafe driver. Unless you suspect an immediate threat of danger to an older adult or others, it’s not recommended that you take the car keys away from an older adult without presenting a comprehensive plan of alternatives to help give your loved one the confidence that he or she can still face life with independence.
Taking away the car keys should be the last choice. An evaluation from an occupational therapist can provide an objective third-party voice.
The idea of giving up driving completely sparks a range of emotions in senior drivers – everything from anger, to anxiety and loneliness. The emotions current drivers most often feel when asked to think about giving up driving are frustration, helplessness and depression.
Listen closely to the senior’s fears and apprehensions about giving up driving. You’ll need to understand these concerns to be able to develop a plan with which he or she feels comfortable.
Here are some examples of how to communicate with seniors in your life about driving. And remember to listen more than you talk!
“I think it’s smart that you have decided to not drive at night because you don’t feel comfortable doing so. I don’t want you to miss out, though. Let’s discuss how to make sure that you still have a way to get where you want and need to go in the evening.”
“I know you count on driving to stay connected to your friends, but I’m concerned about your driving. I’d like to work on a solution together. Even if an accident is not your fault, you could be seriously hurt.”
“It’s not you, Dad. The disease is robbing you of your ability to drive. You can’t blame yourself. We all just want you to be safe. Let’s talk about how you can give up your car but still be active. What are your concerns?”
You’re not alone in dealing with this challenging aspect of aging. There are many resources available for caregivers and seniors who are safely (or unsafely) driving, those driving with limitations, and those who have stopped driving altogether. Visit LetsTalkAboutDriving.com for helpful information and more:
- Misconceptions about giving up the wheel
- Signs that seniors need to give up driving
- The “keys” to contentment
- Technical solutions to keep seniors safe on the road
- Strategies to manage a senior resistant to having the conversation