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   Seniors and Driving



Some of the issues involving helping your senior citizen parent or grandparent can be difficult and full of tough decisions. Seniors face unique medical and lifestyle issues that call upon them and those that love them to find solutions that they can live with. And it’s very common for senior citizens to live in denial about the effects of their advancing years and to accept the changes in the way they live that must happen for them to continue live in a safe and healthy way.

Driving is just such an issue. For most adults, the ability to drive a car is an integral part of our sense of empowerment and freedom. We seldom think of what it would be like if we couldn’t just “jump in the car and go.” But that feeling of complete freedom to go where you want and when you want is such a deep part of how we all function that it seems inconceivable to any of us to lose that mobility and freedom.

But for senior citizens, there will come a time when they will need to give up driving. The causes are many but the most common reason that calls for senior citizens to stop driving is failing eyesight. While much can be done to preserve the eyesight of senior citizens, if their ability to see becomes a hazard behind the wheel, they will have to be told that it's time to let that precious freedom go.

So how do we help our senior citizen loved one accept and then cooperate with a plan to reduce or eliminate their driving? You might be surprised that when it comes time for you as the child or caregiver of a senior citizen to talk to them about giving up driving, they may have already begun to think about it. Senior citizens are very aware of their physical condition. So while they may resist giving up the car or van, they may know deep down that this time would come. Some other compelling reasons to take that step sooner rather than later are…

- Doctor’s orders. If the senior citizen’s doctor specifically directs that Grandpa cannot drive. The senior will often respect that directive even more than family advice. A doctor’s credibility goes a long way on this issue.
- Their own safety. In the same way that no senior citizen wants to “fall and not get up”, the idea of being in an accident which may cause serious injury resulting in painful recovery and possible permanent reduced freedom and mobility is a compelling reason to turn the car keys over to someone else.
- The safety of others. It’s easy to find news stories of a senior citizen who continued to drive only to be involved in an accident that caused injury or death to others, maybe even children. That prospect is so horrifying to a Grandma or Grandpa that they may choose to ground themselves then ever face that kind of guilt.
- Savings. Getting rid of the car means no more upkeep, car payments, gas expense and auto insurance. Senior citizens are penny wise so that kind of savings can make a big difference.

If your senior citizen comes to understand that accommodations can be made to help them get out and about, the loss of that car may not be a big deal. Public transportation or buses that community services centers send out to retirement villages can help senior citizens get out to the grocery store and to doctor’s appointments. And if their family pitches in to help drive Grandma or Grandpa around, not only do they lose the expense and liability of driving, they get more family time too. And that is a great incentive to give up driving and let others serve as their chauffeur.