Like most things in life, there are two sides to the coin when it comes to elderly drivers. On the one hand, these are people that have spent the overwhelming majority of their lives behind the wheel of a vehicle, so the idea of giving up that freedom and independence is likely very stressful for them, even if it very clearly is a conversation that needs to happen as their health and driving abilities decline.
And that’s the other side of the coin—however accustomed to driving an elderly parent may be, at some point it’s the job of the child to bring up the idea of giving it up. A whopping 80 percent of people in their 70s suffer from arthritis, to say nothing of weaker muscles, reduced flexibility, and a more limited range of motion that all contribute to make elderly drivers the second-most dangerous group of drivers in the U.S., behind only teenagers.
Put as simply as possible: driver fatality rates are 17 times higher for older drivers than drivers between the ages of 25 and 64. At some point, the safest thing is to convince an elderly parent to give up driving, but that can be a whole lot harder to accomplish than one might think.
The following are a few tips to talk to a parent about giving up driving:
Start the Conversation Early
Don’t wait to have this conversation until they already are driving so dangerously that they need to turn over their keys immediately. People do better when they have some time to wrap their heads around an idea, so introduce the idea of giving up driving early and allow them to think through the ramifications of what that might mean.
Help Them Make Other Arrangements
An important part of the conversation is giving them other ways to get around so they don’t feel as though they are completely giving up their independence. Help them manage bus schedules or use rideshare programs like Lyft or Uber. Perhaps there are volunteer driver services in your area for senior citizens. Make them aware that losing their own vehicle doesn’t cut them off from the world, and having those options ready beforehand is more convincing than having to research them later.
You have to remember that the idea of giving up driving is not going be fun for your parent. Imagine how your own life would skid to a halt if you suddenly no longer had the ability to drive for some reason. It’s no easier emotionally or practically for an older, retired person than it is for someone in the peak of their life.
If you need any help having this conversation with a parent, or perhaps you think this is the first step toward a parent moving into a senior living community like Lexington Square, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone here so we can give you more information about assisted living. Just remember that nobody likes the idea of giving up driving, but if it’s going to be safer for your parent and the other people on the road, it’s okay to have that conversation as long as it’s respectful and provides these older drivers with the alternatives they need to continue living their lives.