The holiday season is an ideal time to talk with mom and dad about how they are doing. While we often think first of their physical health, another aspect of their life that deserves a look is driving.
With the number of drivers 70 and older increasing — and one in five Americans caring for an older loved one — the number of adult children concerned about their parents' driving abilities is on the rise.
If you have any concerns, your first stop should be to learn the warning signs of diminished driving skills, then get in the car and observe. Some of the warning signs:
- Easily distracted while driving.
- Hitting curbs.
- Having trouble merging onto lanes.
- Poor judgment making left turns.
- Failing to follow traffic signs and signals.
Looking for patterns is the key. Once you get the facts and educate yourself, you'll be in a better position to identify problems and suggest solutions.
For most people, talking to a parent about their driving can be very difficult. So, to help families prepare for and initiate thoughtful conversations with older drivers, AARP, The Hartford and MIT AgeLab have teamed up to produce We Need to Talk, a free online course that gives family members information about the emotional connections to driving and different approaches to having the conversation. In the privacy of your home, on your home computer, you can learn more about older driver safety.
Don't forget, you're not alone. A recent Hartford survey found that adults 40-49 are the age group most concerned about an older family member's driving. Of those concerned, more than 33 percent have not shared these worries with the older driver. The most common reasons are:
- Concern the older driver will have a negative reaction (53 percent).
- Unsure of how to raise the issue (43 percent).
- Unsure of transportation alternatives (28 percent).
AARP's jointly sponsored course can give concerned adult children information and strategies about approaching the older driver issue with their loved one. In addition, more information about driving safely while you age, comprehensive driving evaluation, interactive tools for older drivers and their families, as well an online community are available at www.safedrivingforalifetime.com.
This season is a time when we take stock of our blessings. You want to do everything you can so that your loved ones remain safe and happy. If you're concerned about your older family member's driving, check out We Need to Talk.There are many ways to express your love for your mom and dad. Take the time to tell them how much you care over the holidays.