Independence is a major theme for many seniors as they age, and the ability to remain capable in many areas without the assistance of others takes on major importance for many. One such area that often comes up between seniors and their family members or caregivers: Driving, and whether it remains safe at an advanced age.
There are many independence and related topics that are regularly considered within a quality assisted living community, including themes like safe transportation for all seniors based on a number of factors. Whether you’re considering such a community or are simply looking to make an honest, fair assessment of whether a senior loved one is safe to continue driving — one that carefully considers the senior’s own viewpoints — here’s a general primer on how to approach this subject.
Not Just an Age Thing
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that driving safety is about much more than just simple age. There’s no set number at which a person becomes unfit to drive; rather, it’s a matter of how well an individual is able to handle various aspects of driving. This includes everything from being aware of one’s surroundings to reacting appropriately in hazardous situations. Many older drivers are perfectly safe behind the wheel; it’s really about understanding each specific individual’s capabilities and limitations.
A Sensitive Subject
If you’re a loved one or caregiver of a given senior who you’re worried is struggling with driving and resulting safety, it’s important to remember that this is a sensitive topic. You don’t want to come across as judgmental or dismissive of the senior’s independence; after all, driving can be a major source of independence and freedom for many people.
It’s important to have a conversation about the issue, rather than simply making assumptions or trying to take away the person’s car keys without warning. This will help ensure that the senior has a chance to share any concerns or reservations they may have about giving up driving, and you can work together to figure out a plan that works for everyone involved.
Resources for Evaluating Driving Skills
There are a couple great resources for family or caregivers to help them evaluate a loved one’s driving ability:
- AAA’s Evaluate Your Driving Ability tool has both articles and resources for older drivers, plus assessment tools for caregivers.
- AARP’s Assessing Driver Ability tool is similar, featuring everything from exercises for safe driving to tips for talking to a parent about driving.
Alternative Forms of Senior Transportation
In any conversation where a senior’s driving privileges are being limited or eliminated, it’s vital that quality alternatives are presented — seniors can’t simply be expected to remain at home 24/7, after all. Here are some potential outlets to consider:
- Friends and family: For many seniors, the most comfortable way to get around is with the help of friends or family. This can involve taking short trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, or even longer outings depending on the relationship and abilities of those involved.
- Ride-sharing: Ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber have both introduced services to make their programs easy for seniors and other vulnerable populations. These services can be great for short trips or when a caregiver isn’t available to provide transportation.
- Public transportation: Depending on the location, public transportation can be a viable and affordable option for seniors who don’t have access to a car or other ride-sharing service.
- Assisted living community transportation: Many assisted living communities offer transportation for residents to get to and from appointments, errands, or other outings. This can be a great option for seniors who don’t have friends or family nearby to help out with transportation.
If a senior loved one in your life is struggling with parts of driving and you’re worried it’s creating a risk to themselves and others, consider these tips as you approach this conversation.