Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Aging Parents: To Drive or Not to Drive--Part 2

Help Parents Age Well by Driving--or Not? Important Links--read on..
“Perhaps the scariest road hazard is the one they don’t make a sign for.” The large bold type on the back cover of the August  2009 New Yorker caught my eye: The silhouette of a girl, leaning forward, hands on the steering wheel, pony tail flying fills a drawing--a yellow and black, road-hazard-shaped sign, with a smaller sign just below saying TEENS. I save the back cover.
If teenagers are “perhaps the scariest road hazard,” what about older drivers? We've read the research: drivers age 55 and older are 25% of the driving population but have only 1% of the accidents. AARP tells us that older drivers usually drive fewer miles each year than younger drivers, so we must consider that. Also the number of accidents per mile rises sharply at age 75, which may be why some think older drivers are scary.
The New Yorker back cover informs us that “teens make up only 7% of America’s drivers but account for 12% of all accidents,” elaborating “IN 2007 TEENS KILLED MORE THAN 3,000 PEOPLE IN OTHER VEHICLES.” With the goal of helping parents age well, which involves supporting self-esteem and not curtailing independence prematurely, how do adult children proceed?
Aging parents.  Teenagers.  Signs of dangerous driving.  Are we more likely to ground a teenager (whose whole life is ahead) but take away the keys and permanently change the life of an older person?  The consequences of unsafe driving are usually far more life-changing for the elderly. Also-- should one size fit all older drivers?
Unless there’s a threat to life and limb, when trying to help parents age well think “Make Haste Slowly.”  Having good information ahead of time, leads to informed decisions instead of knee-jerk reactions. Taking time to think things through avoids the sobering, life-changing reality of "taking away the keys" unnecessarily.
While my parents were alive, I was clueless about information and programs to help older people continue drive or conclude that they shouldn't.
Information I wish I'd known about:
AARP's site, http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/driver_safety/, with information about AARP's Driver Safety Course, (added bonus--usually a discount on auto insurance). A friend told his mother that he would take the course with her every year. As long as she passed, she could continue to drive--assuming no accidents. (She stopped driving at 98; they both took the course many times.) Check out other AARP information, ie. warning signs for when to stop driving-- http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/info-05-2010/Warning_Signs_Stopping.html

CarFit, http://www.car-fit.org/, sponsored throughout the country. Individual appointments are scheduled for a “quick comprehensive check” examining how well your car fits you (your parent’s car fits her/him).  End result: recommendations for car adjustments and adaptations, and a sheet of resources. I went to our woman's club one day, found "CarFit" was taking place in the parking lot, asked if there was time for me, and was surprised to find my mirrors weren't adjusted to give me the best range of vision.
Lastly, booklets: The Effects of Aging on Driving Skills, is excellent, free, and small. Downloadable from http://www.usaaedfoundation.org/ (phone 800-531-8159).
I also like The Older and Wiser Driver, http://www.aaafoundation.org/ Put "older and wiser and driver" in the search space, the brochure comes up or phone (202-638-5944).
The preceding may keep capable older parents, driving longer--safer.  When older people can continue to drive safely, they maintain their independence, their way of life. We know that. They feel good, so we feel good as we help parents age well.

Go to my new site: http:helpparentsagewell.com for additional information

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