Problem: Senior family members and friends who have reached a point where they are no longer able to drive safely, but are struggling to let go because it feels like losing their independence.
Solution: Help them see the positive parts of giving up their keys.
If a person eats well, exercises both body and mind, and generally takes care of good care of themselves throughout their life, many of these negative aspects of aging can be avoided. However, no matter how healthy a person may be, natural wear and tear are inevitable.
No matter how many supplements a person takes, and how faithful they are to their daily exercises, one can’t expect to be in their 80s or 90s and have all five senses working perfectly, all their joints in excellent condition, and all of their mental capacities as sharp as they once were. Perhaps you are in your 50s and taking care of yourself and feeling fine, but your mom is really feeling the effects of age.
She may be experiencing hip pains, knee pains, a loss of energy, and other health changes. Maybe the last time you rode in the car with her, she almost rear-ended someone because she didn’t react in time, or maybe she blew through a stop sign because she didn’t see it in the corner of her eye.
Whether it’s impaired vision or slower reactions, etc, there are many possible reasons that could make it unsafe for your senior family member or friend to drive. Driving may directly cause stress, raise blood pressure, and give anxiety after a certain age.
Probably the hardest part about this topic for your loved one is that losing their keys feels like losing their independence. That doesn’t mean you should simply avoid the topic. If you are concerned about their safety and health, out of love for them, you have to bring it up. But the conversation will go much better if you prepare what you’re going to say beforehand.
So how do you approach this sensitive topic without offending them or making them feel bad?
Surrendering your keys can be more of an opportunity than it may seem at first. It sounds like a limitation, and it certainly is an adjustment. However, there are transportation alternatives which could end up being very beneficial to your senior.
So what are some of these transportation options?
1.) Car-sharing. This option is available in many different versions, whether in the form of an old-fashioned taxi, or an app. If you keep an eye out, there are companies now that have drivers who are specially trained to assist the elderly or disabled.
2.) Volunteer programs. There are groups that exist to transport senior citizens. Many communities have these. Check to see if yours does.
3.) Public transportation. Old-fashioned buses, trams, trolleys, and trains are awesome options that shouldn’t be overlooked!
4.) Carpools. If it’s something like going to church, book club, or a family get-together, they could probably get a ride with a friend or family member.
5.) Walking. This only works if the destination is nearby, but most people have something within walking distance, whether a store, a church, a park, etc.
6.) Websites and apps. Although the internet itself can’t drive you, it can put you in touch with people who want to! A couple good resources are:
www.eldercare.gov: provides suggestions and information of transportation options for seniors
Uberassist app: features drivers who are specially trained to help the elderly and disabled. It is accessible from the regular app if the program is in your area.
www.cleanfleetreport.com/best-car-sharing:list of carsharing options
Most of these options include social interaction. Studies have shown that social interaction is healthy and essential for all human beings, but especially important for the elderly, who might be out of the habit.
Bryan James, PhD, from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, says: “Our findings suggest that social inactivity itself leads to cognitive impairments.” His study involved examining social activity in relation to health, among older people. Over the course of 5 years, the people who were more socially active showed less cognitive decline. The people with the highest levels of social activity experienced only a quarter of the decline experienced by the least socially active people.
Think about it. If they’re not driving themselves, they have to get a ride with someone else. It’s an opportunity to be social.
It’s also an opportunity for less stress. Maybe they haven’t been to a concert or a play in a long time because parking was too much to figure out. This way, they don’t have to worry about parking!
They also don’t have to worry about how far the drive is! Maybe they haven’t driven anywhere further than an hour in a long time. It would be up to their own discretion, but perhaps if they were able to take a nap on the ride there, they could go for a day trip or a weekend to somewhere a little further away.
Action Plan: If you have a loved one who you think may need to retire from driving, prepare a way to approach the subject, keeping in mind the importance of focusing on the positives.
Uber now offers assistance for elderly and disabled people, Kristin Wong http://lifehacker.com/uber-now-offers-assistance-for-elderly-and-disabled-peo-1718398360
Late-life Social Activity and Cognitive Decline in Old Age
Carefect Blog Team. 2013. Tips for Helping Elderly Parents Adjust To Life without Driving. http://www.carefecthomecareservices.com/blog/tips-for-helping-elderly-parents-adjust-to-life-without-driving/
Eldercare.gov. Transportation Options for Older Adults. http://www.eldercare.gov/ELDERCARE.NET/Public/Resources/Brochures/docs/Trans_Options_Panels.pdf
The first step to finding resources for older adults in any U.S. community and a free national service of the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) that is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a).
866.528.NCST (6278) www.seniortransportation.net
The nation’s go-to resource for senior transportation information, research, and development is administered by Easter Seals, Inc. in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, and with guidance from the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA).