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Retiring from Driving: How to Make the Transition

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Perhaps you can’t imagine your aging loved one ever giving up driving. When you think about it, maybe it’s tough to contemplate your own life without a day or two behind the wheel, right? In reality, older men are estimated to live on average 7 years beyond their ability to drive, and older women are estimated to live on average 10 years beyond their ability to drive*.

To understand what it means to give up driving, it’s important first to understand what driving means to an individual. “For some people, it’s not about getting to the store, it’s about how they get to the store,” said Elin Schold Davis, Project Coordinator, Older Driver Initiative, American Occupational Therapy Association.

“Pride of ownership is as important to some as privacy and spontaneity are to others. This generation of seniors, for instance, is used to the idea of going on joy rides. It’s important to ask more questions and distinguish between necessity and pleasure because that makes a difference in how alternatives are perceived.”

Being without wheels doesn’t need to spell isolation. If an older adult has given up driving, it doesn’t mean that life has lost its meaning or enjoyment. Nearly half of all former drivers surveyed for Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead® network, said that, all things considered, giving up driving made no impact on their lives. Roughly three in 10 even said they did not miss driving.

Be Prepared with New Options

Regardless of our age, we all have important things to do and places to be such as family events, doctor appointments and the grocery store. BrightFocus Foundation recommends that a senior driver prepares to stop driving, when determined necessary to do so, by coming up with new transportation options. For example:

  • Ask family and friends if they would be willing to be a driver in exchange for a meal out.
  • Are there senior ride programs, paratransit services and reduced fare programs in your area? Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to learn more about these types of programs.
  • Look for services that cater to those who are no longer driving such as hair stylists and doctors who make house calls, and grocery stores and pharmacies that deliver.
  • Carpooling isn’t just for kids. Get together with a senior’s friends to come up with options.

Make it Fun

Older adults who enjoy the spontaneity of an afternoon drive don’t need to give that up just because they are no longer driving. For example, taking the budget that a senior used to maintain her vehicle to hire a driver could make her the hit of the care community when she summons her driver to take her friends and her wherever they want to go. Or make public transportation a new adventure. Take a friend or family member along on some trial runs by bus, taxi or Uber.

Think Outside the Box

Focus on activities that don’t require driving. Not all fun activities revolve around driving. If your senior is able, consider focusing more attention on activities such as gardening and walking.

While some seniors still might not like the idea of giving up driving, others might consider it a relief! Check out these four misconceptions about giving up the car keys.

* Smart Technology for Aging, Disability, and Independence: The State of the Science (William C. Mann, Editor)

Last revised: April 28, 2016

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 13, 2016 at 7:50 am | Posted by Janet

    I am looking to correspond with someone who is taking care of a loved one with mild cognitive impairment. My husband is now is progressing to another level of impairment. It would be wonderful to be able to converse with someone who is experiencing the same issues I have. Thank you, Janet


    • July 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Posted by Bryan Oldham

      My mom has mild cognitive impairment. She remains quite independent. Occasionally she will forget a word that she is trying to say. She is active in her local church. I live with my mom. I would be glad to share experiences if that would be helpful.


    • September 12, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Posted by michele

      My lovely father in law has declined since an unrelated surgery last year. Alzheimer's runs in the family and he is sometimes seems better than other times. He has gotten lost for the first time in his neighborhood and forgets people that he should remember. Then he'll remember them the following week. He struggles to find words...and he knows it. He is frustrated and aware of what is happening as he watched his mother suffer. My husband is an only child and he struggles with the future decisions. He still lives on his own and is driving but time is nearing for changes. It is a difficult time.


  2. June 10, 2016 at 10:40 am | Posted by Bobbie Sena

    I dread becoming helpless or dependent. I have seen precious friends suffer terribly when they felt no longer safe driving.I am 82 and I am sure I am still a very safe and careful driver. However, I no longer drive out of my neighborhood nor on expressways.I have had no accidents nor tickets for more than 30 years.The children of my friends soon tired of driving them to appointments and coaxed them into assisted living where the conditions were not as lovely at all as they seem from the outside.I am praying I will be able to stay in my own home and just hire people to help me.I am so glad I was able to help precious friends a little when children and or "caregivers failed them badly. I am hoping I will be more blessed than they.


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