Men & women fought and gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have today.
What IS freedom to you?
To someone older than you, it might be something as simple as being behind the wheel of a car, experiencing the independence it brings.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as 1) the quality or state of being free such as:
a: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘Driving is a privilege, not a right.’ Maybe.
When does that privilege get revoked?
Look at how many drivers are in the USA by age. The percentage of Americans with driver’s licenses compared to the total population, with population estimates from the Bureau of the Census in 2019.
Across all age groups, 84.1% of all Americans have a driver’s license.
The lowest percentage of total licensed drivers is among 16- to 19-year-olds, where just 34.8% of the population has a driver’s license. That percentage number climbs all the way up to ages 50-69 where 93.5% of that population are licensed – then drastically dips to 60.1% over the next 17 years.
Why is that? Is it because of age? In some circumstances, yes. We need to look harder.
Focus on Physical and Mental Health and Abilities, not Age
Vision and hearing impairment – cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration…mishearing and asking you to repeat things often – all can cause the senior driver to miss visual and auditory cues to stop or slow down, making them a danger to themselves, and others
Lack of physical ability – driving takes control and dexterity – inactivity can cause muscle deterioration which easily affect someone’s agility, coordination, and strength
Diseases and chronic conditions – Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia can affect judgment and driving ability
Medications – some prescription drugs cause drowsiness and can affect someone’s reaction time
There are many warning signs to look for. Some should be easy to recognize, but we often overlook them, or give our loved ones the benefit of the doubt. They simply made a mistake. Look more closely. Are they guilty of:
Poor driving at night, or drastically reduced peripheral vision? even if 20/20 with corrective lenses?
Struggling to drive at higher speeds, or erratic driving such as abrupt lane changes, braking or acceleration, hitting curbs, missing turns, or barely missing cars or pedestrians
Getting lost frequently, even on familiar roads, and having trouble reading street signs or navigating directions
Acting startled, claiming that cars or pedestrians seem to appear out of nowhere
At-fault accidents, more frequent near-crashes, dents and scrapes; traffic tickets or “warnings” by authorities
Not using turn signals/keeping them on without changing lanes, lane drifting, driving on the wrong side of the road
Having the Conversation
Brace yourself. Talking to a senior about voluntarily giving up their independence is not an easy conversation to have. There will be resistance. Remember these 3 helpful tips:
Be empathetic, not confrontational
Keep the conversation non-accusatory, honest, and between “adults”, not “child and parent”
Bring in a 3rd party who can manage the conversation, like a Fiduciary
Help the senior gain comfort in asking for assistance
Be prepared to provide them with alternatives; other ways they can go where they need and want to go without them driving to get there. Sure, there is public transportation. There are also services like Uber and Lyft. Family members can volunteer and trusted Fiduciaries offer these services as well.
Concern For Their Safety
Always involve the senior in the conversation. They may be up for an honest conversation about it if they understand you are concerned for their safety and those around them. If you believe they’re still capable of driving, suggest a Mature Driving course. Graduates may receive a discount on their auto insurance.
Since you’re speaking about freedom and independence with your senior, talk about how we got here. Remember those in your family who participated in liberating us all from constraint and enslavement. Pay tribute to family members and friends who fought for our rights so we may have these privileges. Maybe then, in that perspective, we can have honest and peaceful conversations about the hard things.