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By the year 2031, one in every five drivers in America will be sixty-five years of age or older. While our experience does not decline with age, some of the skills necessary for safe driving—vision, reflexes, flexibility, and hearing—do begin to deteriorate.
I have heard it said that older people self-monitor, and when we realize we’re having trouble doing something, we stop doing it. Why, then, do most people drive seven to ten years longer than they should?
It is because a car represents much more than transportation. With it comes freedom, autonomy, and status. When adults contemplate all the losses that come with aging, the one we fear most is losing our cars.
There is no set age when people should stop driving, but important decisions, such as whether to stop, should be made based on knowing the facts. It is an irrefutable fact that people aged seventy and older are more likely to crash than any other age group. And because older drivers are more fragile, we are also more likely to get hurt or die from these crashes.
Believe it or not, there are benefits to not driving. You are safer if you stop driving when all indications are that you should. You will feel a sense of relief. You may not even realize that you are stressed when you drive until the feeling is no longer present. There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are no longer putting yourself, your passengers, other drivers, or pedestrians at risk.
What should you do? Use your favorite search engine to look up warning signs that it’s time to stop driving. Be honest with yourself about whether any of these warning signs hit home. If any do, consider turning in your car keys. If you’re not sure, take a driver safety course for older drivers to objectively measure how well you drive.
A few years ago, there would have been practically no options except cabs and begging rides. But now we have the miracle of Lyft, Uber, and such national organizations as Aging Ahead and ITNGateway. In most US counties, there are public transportation services for seniors. GoGoGrandparent is a concierge service that connects seniors with on-demand ride services like Lyft and Uber.
The bottom line? You can give up your car and still get around. Such adjustments will take some getting used to, but then, change always does.