There comes a time where a child or family member may need to have tough conversations with an aging parent or family member with regard to their driving and housing.
While there is no clear scientific evidence that indicates how old is too old to drive, there is indeed a point in everyone’s life where their decline in physical and/or mental condition affects an individual’s ability to safely drive a motor vehicle.
It is important to understand that driving is more than a utility for an elder individual. When a teenager passes their driver’s exam and gains the ability to legally drive a car, a feeling of independence and freedom is instilled in them. It is no different as an individual enters the later years of their life—driving is a kind of personal sovereignty that allows an elderly individual to maintain the freedom to decide when and where to go. Most Americans over the age of fifty live in the suburbs and rural areas, where few transportation alternatives are available. While the advent of transportation network companies, such as Lyft or Uber, has had a revolutionary effect on transportation services, it has also taken a bite out of the traditional taxi industry. As such, seniors living in non-urban areas, who may not be as technology savvy, have found it harder to get a ride from a traditional means of alternative transportation that they may be more comfortable with.
As adults, we take our independence for granted and cannot easily fathom a day where our freedom and mobility may be limited. Furthermore, the debate on seniors driving is often so focused on the safety of the senior and those on the road with them that we do not often understand the greater meaning and emotions that driving provides to seniors.
Similarly, it is a widely held belief that “one’s home is one’s castle”. However, there may come a time where one’s castle no longer meets one’s needs. Whether it may be the result of physical decline or cognitive decline, there may come a point where a person can no longer safely reside in their abode. We as people identify greatly with our home and the collection of memories accrued over our residency there. As such, it is important to remember that when moving a senior from their home it should be as much about how that senior identifies with their home as it is about accessible and safe housing. While children or family members of an elderly homeowner are ordinarily deeply concerned with their comfort and safety, they sometimes do not take into consideration the symbol that the home represents to the elderly homeowner. It is a place that evokes emotions and memories that the senior cherishes greatly.
Ultimately, a discussion with a senior family member about relinquishing their motor vehicle or leaving their home often places two sets of critical values at odds – freedom versus safety. These discussions are crucial and tough and, as such, there are three strategies that you can use to maneuver.
- Look for Patterns and Cite Examples of Diminished Physicality or Capacity;
- Do Your Homework by Finding Viable Transportation Alternatives or Identifying Housing Alternatives located near friends, family and familiar surroundings; and
- If Possible, Collaborate with the Senior in the Decision-Making Process.