PALM HARBOR, FL (WFLA) — By 2030, one in four drivers will be over the age of 65. And with those golden years, there are health issues that can affect safe driving.
Asking an aging parent to give up their independence of driving can be a tough conversation.
Jo Sullens, a retired elementary music teacher, knows all about it. “We had to do that with my mother. She was not real happy about it but she realized her limitations.”
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration reports medical conditions associated with elderly drivers can cause unsafe driving by restricting movement, vision, and decision making. However, some drivers can modify their vehicle to continue safely driving. There are special knobs on steering wheels to help people with arthritis.
Vision issues can many times be corrected with special glasses. It’s important to see a doctor and ask for recommendations on how to continue driving safely.
Tom Hirsch, a speaker for AARP, counsels people on the best way to have a successful conversation between a family member and an aging driver.
“You have to approach this conversation with love and empathy.” Hirsch adds it’s not always a black and white situation. “Dementia or Alzheimer does not necessarily mean the driver has to give up the keys, but it’s a warning sign.”
More immediate warning signs include running over curbs, or getting lost in what should be a familiar area. There are also anonymous assessment tests and helpful resources online specifically geared for aging seniors. Here is a link to one offered by AAA.
Hirsch says first lay the groundwork with small conversations. It’s also important to have all members of the family ride around with the parent several times. It may be that the concerned child is overreacting.
Hirsch says it’s important for the entire family to be on the same page. And one should try to imagine being the aging driver, so he or she may be more empathetic to the situation.
AARP is holding a free seminar called Need To Talk this Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. in Palm Harbor. Tom Hirsch will be there speaking at the East Lake Community Library, located at 4125 East Lake Road in Palm Harbor, and providing resources to make the conversation and transition easier.