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Letting Go of the Wheel

August 20, 2018

by Samantha Fruchtman, Development Associate. My father turned 96 last month and it was only a few years ago that he gave up driving. My sisters and I did not have to intervene as he thankfully recognized his limitations and he didn’t want to get into an accident where he would be forced to surrender his license. Because he chose to stop driving, rather than be required to relinquish his license, my Dad was in control of the process. It wasn’t easy for him at all as he loved everything about driving, from the process of buying and selling a car to getting it repaired. However, he knew it was time. My Dad now uses Uber and Lyft to get around, and a car service for longer trips, which requires planning. This was a huge adjustment for him.

Why Should Seniors Give Up Driving?

Some seniors must stop driving due to medical reasons such as macular degeneration, weak muscles, arthritis, stroke, cognitive disorders, etc. According to AARP’s article, We Need to Talk: The Difficult Driving Conversation, some seniors also display warning signs of unsafe driving, which could signal it is time to stop driving. They may lose confidence in their driving ability, are easily distracted, have slow reflexes and drive too fast or slow for the conditions. Whatever the reason, giving up driving can have deep emotional consequences for many such as depression, a loss of independence, and a sense of isolation. For adult children, it’s best to start the conversation with your parent early and acknowledge their feelings about this transition with compassion. Imagine if you couldn’t pick up your car keys and jump in the car to run to the market, dine at a restaurant or visit friends at a moment’s notice? Losing this freedom and independence is not easy. It will take time to process. “Often when individuals stop driving, their health and happiness decline,” states Angela Curl, assistant professor of social work at University of Missouri, in the article, Seniors’ Loss of Driving Independence Negatively Affects their Ability to Work, on “For seniors, engaging more in their communities is linked to maintained health, lower rates of depression and financial benefits, and this is why adults need to be better prepared before they quit driving.”

What Are Some Other Options for Seniors Who No Longer Can Drive?

Whether you live in a city, suburb or in the country, a little planning can help ease the transition so your parent or loved one can remain active, independent and happy. According to Driving Alternatives: How to Get Around After Giving up the Keys by Kate Rauch published on, there are solutions for seniors. Here are some ideas to help your parents to plan for alternative transportation:

  • Public Transportation – bus or train-can be a cost-effective substitute;
  • Paratransit is available for individuals living with a disability and often provides door-to-door service;
  • Lyft, Uber or a taxi service;
  • Dial-A-Ride and shared van services;
  • Arranging transportation through family, friends, senior centers, caregivers and faith-based organizations.

Another solution is choosing to live in a senior community. Many communities offer driving services throughout the day and evening which go to local shopping centers, movies, restaurants and doctors’ appointments, among others. Having this resource enables seniors to still enjoy their independence and remain socially active without getting behind the wheel. Keep in mind that however we manage this process, everyone is different. What works for one person, might not work for another and that is okay. My father had the foresight, at a mature age, to put down his keys, accept this natural part of life and move forward in a way that worked for him. Others may need more support from family, friends and outside resources. However, someone reaches this stage, with proper planning, the person can still find the same joys in life. Published in the Daily Local News on Monday, August 20, 2018.