“Driving! Dad’s driving? What do you mean, Dad’s driving? He’s nearly blind!”
“Don’t get so excited. There’s nothing to worry about; I’m always with him,” Mom countered reassuringly. “I tell him when to turn left or right and when to stop, don’t I dear?”
“What, what was that?” Dad responded.
Of all the minefields negotiated between generations, driving can be the most explosive. This conversation is about more than safety; it is about independence. It touches who we are as individuals. This is dangerous territory.
So what do we do?
A good place to start is remembering who taught us to drive. Those first few rides were probably white knucklers. Consider the patience and courage we benefited from. How many fender benders or near misses did Mom and Dad forgive? In most cases, our parents have thousands of accident free-miles behind them. Whatever the circumstances, that deserves to be acknowledged.
A quick Google of “senior driving” yeilds plenty. AARP has everything from safety tips to elder driver training. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has an excellent site. There is also a tremendous amount of helpful information at www.seniordrivers.org.
If we are going to ask a parent to change how or when they drive we must also take into account the impact it will have. What are Dad’s alternatives? We can’t expect him to accommodate our concerns without having his needs met. Is Mom expected to wait for alternate Saturday afternoons to go shopping? Are doctor’s appointments going to fit with soccer schedules?
There is also the flip side of concerns about driving: diminished activity. Have Mom and Dad stopped visiting us as often as they used to? Did they stop going to evening services although they had always looked forward to them? These signs may not carry the loud message of the bump and crunch method of parking, but they are just as important to be aware of.
Aging changes how we do things, not who we are. There may be a need to accommodate and adjust, but that doesn’t mean anyone should be asked to give up or give in. Transportation and mobility are essential to being able to Age in Place. A caring and supportive family is as important to that as a tune up and a new set of tires.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.