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Aging: How to have the talk about driving

March 19, 2018

Driving: it is the first sign of true independence when we we are growing up. It can also feel like the last pillar of our independence as we grow older.


But, the fact of the matter is that sometimes we age past the ability to drive. Someone you know or love might be in this exact situation right now, and it can be very difficult to know when is the right time to talk about "giving up the keys." It can also be one of the toughest conversations to have.



How to tell if someone shouldn't be driving


If you have a friend or loved one that you are concerned about getting behind the wheel, you need to pay attention to the signs they might be showing while driving. Here is a list of signs to watch out for from the National Institute on Aging:

  • The person has received 2 or more tickets for moving violations in the past 2 years

  • Increased insurance premiums for driving issues

  • The person begins complaining about the speed or actions of other drivers

  • They begin displaying anxiety about night time driving

  • Multiple car accidents, near misses or new dents in the vehicle

  • Comments from friends or neighbors about the person's driving

  • Health issues that affect hearing, vision or movement

How to talk to someone about their driving


This is the hard part. Because we often see driving as our key to independence, the conversation about giving up the keys can be very difficult.


Before beginning the conversation, be prepared to offer other solutions for their transportation needs. This might include finding out about local public transportation opportunities or finding a friend, neighbor, or family member that can assist them when needed.


Throughout the conversation, make it a goal to stay positive and supportive. The realization that driving may no longer be an option can be very emotionally taxing. It is something that most adults have done their whole life, and now they are faced with the idea that they may no longer be able to perform what has been viewed as a basic daily activity.


Try to stay focused on the fact that you want to help them maintain their independence. Reinforce that it isn't about taking away their independence, but it is about finding new avenues to achieve it.


It is helpful to avoid confrontation and stick to the issue. Discuss their driving abilities and not their age and use "I" language instead of "You" language whenever possible. Example: "I am worried about your safety when driving" instead of "You are are an unsafe driver."


Hopefully these tips can help you when the time comes for the conversation. For assistance on finding local transportation options for senior citizens, contact the local Area Agency on Aging by calling 1-800-677-1116 or visiting

Sunshine Home Care is an Altus, OK home health agency serving most of Western Oklahoma. For more information on our agency, visit here or contact us today.

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