Since the dawn of time transportation has always been important. In recent decades personal transportation has become more prevalent and more important. There are many people who rely on public transportation, and in crowded cities with limited parking taxis are very popular. But for those in the suburbs and small towns having your own car means freedom and independence.
Think for a moment what your car says about you. Is it brand spanking new, or is a few years old and worse for the wear? Is it a sports car or is it a mini-van? Is it clean on the inside and washed regularly or do you toss fast food bags into the back seat and let the rain wash your car?
And what does that freedom and independence mean to you? Do you drive your car only to go grocery shopping or commute to work? Or are you a road warrior who thinks nothing of driving an hour or more just to go to dinner, with or without friends?
Imagine that you’re retired and that your children are grown and living somewhere else. You probably use your car to visit your friends and relatives; and make medical appointments as well as conduct all of your day to day affairs like grocery shopping. Your car no longer means only freedom and independence to you. It doesn’t just represent your quality of life. In a very real sense it means life itself.
Now imagine that your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, your reflexes are slowing down and you may not have as much sensitivity or strength in your extremities as you had in your youth. You may not have noticed aging’s affects on your ability to drive, but you may have noticed that you’re more frustrated by other drivers lately. How do you think you’ll take any comments about turning over your keys or selling your car? Even if those comments are said well by those who care about you, you’re ability to live is being threatened. You’re not going to take it well, especially if you’re on the young side of retirement age and expected to have another decade or more of driving ahead of you.
This is a tough conversation to have from either side no matter how you approach it. The Network for Public Health Law has an issue brief on safety and elder drivers that is worth reading. It won’t help with the conversation, but it might help you prepare for it.