When Should Seniors Stop Driving?

This article originally appeared on https://www.carelinx.com/blog - Carelinx are part of the Europ Assistance Group.

Driving is a sensitive subject for seniors

In a recent article, USA Today tackled the difficult subject of asking your parents to give up driving. Many caregivers say this is one of the hardest conversations to have.

Why seniors won’t give up driving

Many older adults absolutely refuse to give up their car keys, even if they’ve had a string of accidents or close calls. They resist because not driving means losing their independence. It also means admitting that they’re getting old and becoming less capable.

Imagine how it would feel to have to ask for a ride to go anywhere and being at the mercy of other people’s schedules. After a lifetime of independence, that’s pretty hard to swallow. 

Get a fair evaluation before jumping to conclusions

Your senior could be a safer driver than you think. Your senior might have already cut back on travel distance from home or driving at night. It could be a good idea to get a fair evaluation of their driving abilities before asking for the keys. AAA has a website with tools and resources for evaluating an older person’s driving ability.

Caregivers need to offer alternatives to driving

Keep in mind, if you ask seniors to give up their keys, they’ll still need to get around. Continuing to participate in the community is an important part of preventing the negative health effects of social isolation.

You’ll need to find convenient (and safe) transportation services, arrange for regular rides, or become a part-time chauffeur. Together, make a list of regular and special occassion rides. These might include shopping, hair salon or barber, church, friends, relatives, favorite restaurants — keep going — cemetery, flower store, and more. 

Tips for successful conversations about giving up driving

Before you have a conversation about giving up driving, think of a few different ways you could approach the subject. It’s going to backfire if you try to give an order or ultimatum. Because it’s such an emotional subject, straightforward logic won’t always work either.

Here are a few suggestions from USA Today that we thought were most helpful.

  1. Make it about saving money: your parents are probably careful with money. Doing a rough cost comparison between owning and maintaining a car versus hiring cabs or occasional drivers might help convince them. According to AAA’s 2015 “Your Driving Costs” study, owning a car costs $8,698 every year, on average
  2. They could help someone in the familyIf someone in the family needs a car, your senior might be willing to give their car to that person. This way, they’re not being forced to give up driving, they’re helping their daughter or nephew whose car is on the verge of breaking down.
  3. Get a professional opinionSome seniors trust a professional’s opinion more than their children’s. Involving your parent’s doctor in the discussion may help convince them that your concerns are legitimate.

Bottom line: The discussion about giving up driving is incredibly difficult, but important for everyone’s safety. If you wouldn’t want someone you love to ride with your senior, it’s time to start working toward a solution.