A study out of the University of Missouri found that even if just one member of a senior couple stops driving, both individuals suffer the consequences. Because driving plays such a significant role in the American identity, the loss of independence can affect the emotional well-being of the non-driving partner. According to the study, even with one spouse still able to drive, both spouses tended to spend less time working or volunteering and with one partner out of the transportation business, the still driving partner often took on the task of chauffeuring the other around. The result was that the driving spouse also suffered a negative consequence as they had less time for work or socializing.
Adult children frequently worry that once Mom or Dad reaches a certain age that they are no longer safe to drive. Unless there is demonstrable proof (such as a doctor’s recommendation) that that is the case it might be more appropriate to consider restricting driving to nearby locations and limiting it to when road conditions are safest (in daylight and when weather is good). Those are decisions that many older drivers make without prodding. Newer model vehicles also have safety features that can improve that ability of a driver to stay safe on the road. Some of those features include forward collision monitoring, rear cameras, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning systems.
The study authors recommend that the older adult and any adult children carefully weigh the consequences of a decision that will likely harm the ability to maintain social relationships or work schedules. Careful consideration of alternative transportation options and even the possibility of moving should be part of any discussion about giving up the keys.
One aspect of aging in place is making sure that important services are reasonably close by. Close by means within walking distance and that walking distance must be safe. People looking at losing their driving privileges need to have access to transportation options such as buses or they need to be able to walk safely through their neighborhoods to reach grocery store, health care providers and friends and families. Families worried about the safety of their loved ones need to be able to come up with concrete solutions to help them maintain their independence before making demands that their older family members give up the independence that the family car provides.
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