There’s probably no one more determined to hang on to every semblance of independence than someone who feels threatened of losing it. Losing one’s ability to drive is a loss of independence many seniors on the road dread and will fight adamantly to avoid. Independent streaks don’t necessarily make safe drivers, though.
Records published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate 33 million Americans aged 65 or older held active drivers’ licenses in 2009. Of those 33 million senior drivers, an average of 500 of them were injured in auto crashes every single day of the year. Even more heart breaking, 15 older adults every day suffered fatal injuries in those auto accidents.
The conversation - THE conversation - about when it’s time to turn in the keys won’t come as a surprise to older adult drivers. They understand the inevitability even though they dread the eventual reality.
Every family communicates in unique style but it’s usually easiest to engage in serious conversations such as when to stop driving when the conversation is started early and progresses in short, gentle steps as the older driver ages. When the subject is presented as a loving acknowledgement of the passing of time rather than an anger-fueled ultimatum, the message is easier to hear.
Fortunately, there are resources that can help family members introduce the subject in ways that are kind, constructive, and based on fact rather than fear. Some older adults will take comfort in the same resources as their concerned family members do so please consider sharing them with the determined driver in yours.
Once the conversation has begun in earnest, honest evaluation can help the family determine the wisdom putting the brakes on the elderly driver or not. When started early, driving tests, doctor’s exams, and a good honest assessment of the elder driver’s skills can become a great tool for determining baseline ability that will help measure changes in the driver’s abilities as age, illness, or injury occur. Yearly assessments will show the progression of any impairments or concerns and perhaps make it easier to accept and understand when it’s best for all to make the change.
Families aren’t alone in their concern for the driver safety of their loved ones. The aging population is such a growing concern through all elements of society that many city and state incentives are being implemented, perfected, and shared to ensure mobility of the senior population isn’t restricted to an untenable level. The elder care movement has developed a number of measures for assessing the driver safety level of seniors citizens and is actively seeking solutions for the transportation needs of seniors who are no longer comfortable behind the wheel.
Age alone is not a decisive factor when determining one’s safety level on the road. Medical concerns and lifestyle choices may make one person ready to take up residence in the passenger seat while another may be perfectly fine behind the wheel until 85. These are the golden years and no one should let the numbers put the brakes on enjoying life, on the road or off it. Seniors-only social clubs, group excursions, all sorts of outings help savvy seniors celebrate the journey with fun and safety around every bend in the road.