Feature Articles - Aging
Transportation and the Elderly
Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist, Cape Girardeau County and Southeast Region, University of Missouri Extension
My parents are both 83 years old. Dad decided on his own to stop driving after a minor fender incident and my Mother knows her driving ability.
Just because people are older does not mean they are unsafe drivers. However, the reduced vision, slower reflexes and stiffer joints of older drivers has an impact on their ability to drive. Older people tend to take more medicine and this could effect their driving ability.
What are some signs of an unsafe driver?
- Driving much slower than the speed of traffic.
- Coming home with dents or scratches in the car
- Drifting from lane to lane
- Bumping into curbs
- Failure to signal
- Running a stop sign or traffic signal
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Forgetting to fasten a seatbelt
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Having difficulty making left hand turns
The decision to stop driving or limiting their driving should be made by the elderly. This is not an easy decision because it means a loss of independence and freedom. Sometimes older drivers who have experienced mental and physical decline are not the best judge of their driving abilities.
What can family and friends do to help?
Sometimes caregivers, family, and relatives need to convince the older adult that there is a safety concern for themselves and others on the road. Be a good listener and raise the issue carefully. Think about a doctor’s checkup to review medical history and medications to see if any of these may be affecting his or her ability.
There are some specialists who can assess the person’s safety and teach defensive driving techniques. For more information contact Driver Rehabilitation Specialists at 1-800-290-2344 or visit www.aded.net.
Create A Transportation Plan
The elderly will feel better about giving up driving if they know there are other ways to get around. Help your older loved one to make a list of transportation options.
- Senior transportation van-(or cabs)-look in the phone book for numbers or call your local Area Agency on Aging. In Missouri, call the Division of Senior Services at 1-800-235-5503 to get the number for your local Area Agency on Aging.
- Neighbors, Church Volunteers, Family and Friends-make a list of phone numbers and encourage your relative to ask for rides. My Mother has developed a network of fine people who take her places.
- Have meals delivered-many restaurants deliver free of charge and many communities have Meals on Wheels programs.
- Receive medicine by mail. Mail-order plans are easy and often less expensive.
- Shop by catalog. In our present time, every thing that an elderly person could need is available on-line or in print.
Assure older people that family and friends will work with them to help them get around. Tell them many older drivers who have given up driving have found that they can get by OK without driving. Also point out money spent on vans, cabs, etc. would probably be less than money spent on gas, car licensing, auto insurance, and car repairs. Include social activities in the transportation plan. Let your relative know that you care for their safety and you will help them with transportation.
Work & Family Life Newsletter, Vol. 18, No. 11, November 2004 and Vol. 18, No. 12, December 2005.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009