Are you worried about your senior parent continuing to drive? Are you waiting for him or her to reach a certain age to initiate this difficult conversation?
There is no magic number that determines when a person should give up driving any more than there is a magic number that determines when a person should retire. Some people are safe drivers well into their 80’s while others should turn over their keys much sooner. Driving combines both physical and mental fitness and there are many elements to consider when thinking about whether or not someone should continue to drive. Let’s look at some of them to help you consider if it’s time to talk to your senior parent about driving.
As most people of a certain age can attest, your vision slowly begins to change as you age and that change can creep up on you. What was simple at age 20 becomes more difficult even at age 50 (sorry). Try reading something you’re holding in your hand and then looking up to focus on the computer screen. Changing your focus takes longer than it used to and that only gets worse as time goes on.
The difficulties associated with the aging eye may cause many elderly drivers to simply stop driving at night. Because of the glare experienced by the elderly and because they take longer to recover from that glare, they are essentially blind when facing the dazzle of oncoming headlights at night. The elderly driver may also have a hard time with their depth perception. They have a shrinking field of vision as well. In other words, their peripheral vision isn’t what it once was.
Few folks can say that their hearing is as acute now as when they were younger. Noises such as emergency sirens, horns or even noises their own vehicle may make can escape them. That can be a real issue on the road.
3. Reaction time
When driving there are a lot of things coming at you at once. You must be able to process several things at the same time and react to changes quickly. The older you get, the slower you process information and the slower your reaction times are. It becomes harder to do more than one thing at a time. Dealing with traffic, signals, lane changes, etc. can be overwhelming.
4. Physical Changes
Joint stiffness and muscle weakness can affect the elderly. This can make driving more challenging. Imagine trying to drive with a stiff neck. Now imagine if that stiff neck is permanent.
We haven’t even touched on disease. Things like diabetes, dementia, macular degeneration and others. Any one of these things can affect a person’s ability to drive.
If you’ve looked at this list and realized that a talk with your loved one about his or her driving is long overdue, then don’t put it off. For aging seniors, it may seem as if they are losing control of yet one more aspect of their lives, so bring up the subject with a little compassion and empathy.
Be sure that you allow time for a long conversation. This isn’t a discussion that should be rushed. As the conversation continues, ask the senior driver for his or her opinion. Chances are, he or she may have noticed that his or her driving isn’t quite up to par. Giving your parent the opportunity to make the choice allows him or her bow out with dignity.
Some older drivers may be a little more stubborn. You may need to be prepared with backup from a source like the family physician. There are even senior driving refresher courses available from places like AARP and AAA that may provide eligibility for insurance premium discounts. Senior drivers might not even realize the extent of their issues until they get into a course like this. It might prove just the eye-opener that they need.
If you notice any of the changes listed above in your senior parents, then begin talking to them about whether driving is still safe for them and others on the road.
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