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I know this blog is for young people and you are probably no where NEAR thinking about what it will be like when you are 75 and retired.  But you may have a grandma or a grandpa who is 85 and driving (or maybe a senior father or a mother if you are a baby boomer).

I’m sorry I’m always talking about seniors.  I think it’s because I heart them (I heart them so much that sometimes if I see a cute senior walking down the street I secretly say to myself I want to take them home with me).  If you haven’t talked to your loved one about advanced care planning yet, check out my post on it and do so.  There, Y&T.ca nag of the day, DONE!

Here are some suggestions on how to help them keep their freedom and what might need to happen if they can’t drive anymore:

Freedom is very very important for older adults (having a car when you turn sixteen is such a monumental milestone for North Americans). 

Having (and being able to drive) a car when you are senior means you will be able to keep your freedom.  As a senior you will be able to buy your groceries (gotta take advantage of the seniors discounts!), visit friends, visit family, and perhaps even take road trips with your loved one.  However because seniors make up the majority of day time accidents (sad but true), many premiums for seniors is no where near the cheap car insurance you can get as a middle aged driver with no accidents under your belt.

Age is Nothing but a Number

Age doesn’t determine whether you are a safe driver or not.  I know of many 88 year old drivers who are safe (heck, my previous neighbour mowed his lawn, shoveled his snow, and does everything at 88!  He’s a true Scotsman 😉 ).  There may be some 75 year old drivers who are dangerous behind the wheel because of decreased vision.  A lot of other determinants affect how well one performs behind the wheel.

Keep Safe

There are many different ways to keep safe behind the wheel.  After 80 years of age here in my province, seniors are required to go for a “check up” with the insurance company regularly so they can be deemed safe to drive.

There should be some mature driver courses in your community that review the basics of how to keep safe on the road.

It’s Risky Business

There are many risks to being a senior driver.  For example, according to BCAA statistics, seniors represent 13% of the population but 16% of the documented car accidents.  If the senior learn to mitigate these risks and learn to be honest with themselves, they will be able to keep safe, keep driving, and not hurt themselves (or anyone else for that matter).

Many health care providers do not like to take away drivers licenses from seniors, and even when they do, oftentimes seniors still go out and drive (without a license).  This can be very dangerous especially if an accident is involved.  More often than not, seniors do not realize how impaired they can be until they get into an accident and hurt someone.

This happened a few years ago but I was driving on a highway when I saw a senior (who had another senior in the passenger seat) drive onto a side walk and hit a pedestrian.  It was an awful thing to witness and I’m sure it was more awful for the senior… the pedestrian was conscious when the ambulance took her away, thankfully.

Just last month, I saw a pedestrian walk across a street dragging his kayak on a trolley (because it’s B.C. and that’s what we do here, drag our kayaks across streets LOL) and a senior driver basically didn’t see the kayak (because it is long and all I suppose, and low to the ground) and almost broke his kayak!  Both parties were safe, thankfully.

If there’s a senior you love, have a talk with them!   But be non-judgmental and non-confrontational or else they will slam the phone/door on you.  Here are some sneaky things to ask about to see if they are safe behind the wheel without being too confrontational.

Check Vision

Cataracts and macular degeneration can REALLY impede vision and make it unsafe to drive.  If your beloved senior doesn’t get his or her eyes checked that often, he or she may keep it to themselves because they are fearful their license will be taken away.  Ensure your loved one gets his or her eyes checked regularly.

This is what the world looks like when you have a cataract


This is what the world looks like when you have macular degeneration

Also, response time is delayed in seniors.  Encourage them not to drive during peak traffic hours and not at night.

Check Senses

Sometimes, many disease processes can cause numbness or tingling to the feet.  It can get so bad that you don’t feel your feet, and you probably can’t feel the gas pedal or the brakes.  Hopefully a senior would not get on the road if they don’t feel their feet very well.  It can get so bad that I’ve heard some people (who go golfing) don’t feel a golf ball in their shoe.

Some of the illnesses that cause numbness and tingling and a general lack of sensation are (these might ring a bell for you if your older adult loved one talks about his or her illnesses all the time):  diabetes, side effects from chemotherapy, and peripheral vascular disease

Check Medications

A lot of medications seniors are on can make them drowsy or not “sharp”.  It can be hard to ascertain what medications they are on because often seniors don’t know what medications they are on anyway!  To remedy this, go on a visit with your senior loved one to their prescriber and ask to decrease the amount of medications that might be making your loved one drowsy.  Your senior loved one will appreciate your thoughtfulness to attend a medical appointment with them (I’m sure they’ll be smiling for weeks)

Save Money

The Senior’s Discount also applies to licensing and registration.  However insurance is often more expensive.  Here are some ways to make sure your senior loved one saves money and maximizes the efficiency of their car.

If You Want to get Your Senior Off the Road…

If you want to get your senior loved one off the road (no matter how much you adore them) because you KNOW they are unsafe to drive, have a talk with his or her doctor and if you want to take it one step further, voice your concern to the local drivers licensing branch.  You may have to take extreme measures, like hiding their keys or even disabling the car… hopefully they will understand that an intervention needed to be done or else he or she could seriously hurt someone.

Readers, have you had to have “the talk” with your senior loved one about taking their car keys?  If you have a senior who you know is still driving (and safe to do so), what precautions are they taking to make sure they’ll be safe in a few years?

Do you ever see a very slow senior driver and get scared and keep your distance? 🙂

Article comments

Megan says:

Oh I absolutely get the “senior” love. Some years ago I came to work in an industry for which seniors are the target audience. What a joy it has been to have the opportunity to know these elder statesmen, and stateswomen, of society. We don’t talk of them as “cute” or “sweet” or the like, as that could seem dismissive, but seriously, they are so adorable that the number of times a day I want to hug someone is just off the charts.

Yeah, we’ve had “the talk” with my grandmother a couple of years back.
Sad to see her loose her independence to a degree, but safety first – for her and others.

Age is just a number, yes, but unfortunately the mind and the body keep track of those things 😉

young says:

@My Own Advisor- That’s true. Sometimes I see seniors who are WELL into their 90’s and they look like they’re 75, max. And then I see 66 year olds who seem really fatigued and they look 90. I hope if I turn 90, I’ll be the former and not the latter.

SophieW says:

Unfortunately my Mother and I ended up having my Dad’s doctor revoke his license last year. He had been diagnosed with dimentia a couple years prior and his attention span and concentration had recently gone right out the window. Sadly he still thought he was ok to drive but even I would be white-knuckled the odd time I’d get in the car with him. I don’t know how my Mother stood it as long as she did because he used to do all the driving.

Anyway, we went to see his neurologist and explained our worries. She then examined my Dad and decided that revoking his license would be the most prudent thing. Was my Dad ever depressed for those first few weeks! Luckily my Mother made sure she would take him everywhere he wanted to go, so he got over it relatively quickly.

Now he doesn’t go out much, due to his condition progressing. Other than golf and curling, now that fall is here, he doesn’t seem to care. It’s really quite sad…

Every situation will be different, but I really do recommend talking with the family doctor. Just think of the lives you could save!

young says:

@SophieW- I love seeing older people help each other like that (e.g. your Mother stepping in and making sure your dad was okay). I agree, the family doctor has the power to take away the license. It’s so important, especially if your senior loved one IS impaired at driver- letting someone continue to drive like that would be negligent, IMO. Good job Sophie!

Liquid says:

“The elderly don’t drive that badly; they’re just the only ones with time to obey the speed limit.” ~Jason Love

Awe! That’s a very sweet quote (and true). Makes you stop and think about where we’re always rushing to. Brings me back to that “day in day out” grind mentality that bogs me down… 🙂