At some point, it will happen to all of us 1. Being faced with the prospect of giving up driving can be disparaging. Our mental sharpness, peripheral vision, and reflexes diminish with age. Approaching a senior about this subject can be very difficult for adult children.
The number of individuals 65 and older in the United States will increase from 47.6 millions in 2015 to 72.7 million by 2030, according to the Census Bureau. In 2011, 17% of all traffic related deaths involved seniors 65 and older. This group only made up 13% of the overall population, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Unfortunately, adult children aren’t discussing this topic with their seniors.
Based on a recent nationwide telephone survey of 1007 adults, ages 40-65 with at least one parent who drives, more than half of adult children of senior drivers, 55% stated that they are concerned about their parents’ driving habits. But only 23% had a discussion with their parents about age related diminishing driving abilities. Surprisingly, these adults are more concerned about their aging parents’ driving than about their family members driving intoxicated. The phone survey was conducted by Liberty Mutual between May 14th and 20th, with a 3.01% margin of error.
“They really are avoiding the conversation,” says David Melton, Liberty Mutual’s managing director of global safety. “We feel very strongly that families know best, and it’s really critical that boomer children not wait until they see a possibly dangerous decline in their parents’ driving. These are conversations that need to be had early and often.”
Based off the survey, just 38% of adult children of senior drivers thought their parents would be open to discussing the prospect of giving up driving. The breakdown of feared negative outcomes: 46% though their parents would be angry, 31% thought their parents would say it’s too difficult to find and use alternative modes of transportation, and 22% thought their parents would be more determined to keep driving.
Experts recommend that families with older drivers should keep and eye out for signs that it maybe time to have that talk.
These include: Noticing scrapes on a parent’s car or bumper, or on a garage door or mailbox. “Also, we suggest the person who is concerned actually ride with the person to get that bird’s-eye view,” says Julie Lee, vice president and national director for driver safety at AARP, a membership organization representing people 50 and older. ”If you notice other drivers are honking their horns more than they should be, or if they run a stop sign, those might be signs.”
When it’s time to have that talk, it’s important to choose the right time (holidays are not the right time). You may want support from family, friends or a doctor. “Driving is such an important part of people’s lives,” Lee says. “So you need to go into it with respect and dignity. You can’t just say, ‘Dad, I’m your daughter. You’re a danger to everybody. We’re taking your keys away.’”
Establish alternative methods of transportation, such as Access Paratransit here in Los Angeles or a home care aide as part of a senior care package before taking away your elder’s driving privileges.