According to the Journal of Financial Service Professionals, at the beginning of the 20th century less than 10% of people in their sixties had at least one parent still living. Today, that figure is nearly 50%. With people living longer, senility is more likely to set in, and upset established family dynamics. The adult child now has to become the parent, which is always a difficult transition. So how can the adult child initiate the transition without causing unnecessary tension? Here are some ideas regarding driving that are applicable to other issues as well.
Deal with it before it is time. Establish objective criteria in advance. Allow them to own the solution.
“Dad, at what point do you feel people should stop driving? What are the signs you have seen?” The resulting answer may allow you to suggest, “Can we agree now that if you have 3 major traffic violations in a year, you will allow me to help you find alternative means of transportation?” You are still likely to get pushback when the time comes, but having a position to stand on is important. Casually remind them on a regular basis. Maybe even make a joke of it in the right settings, and tell your parent’s friends. The friends may address it as more of a complaint towards you. But they will know when it is time, and will be thankful to have you as a scapegoat. In the above scenario, if the parent is willing to stop driving for the remainder of a year, then you are on the right path.
Make sure your parent maintains some level of freedom.
In most climates and locations golf carts are an easy substitute for the loss of freedom. Make sure to consider this if looking at senior living locations. Having low-traffic access by golf cart to the corner grocery store and social interactions (golf, community center, or a health club) is a more palatable transition than immediate isolation. If in cooler climates, try to make the transition as soon as winter breaks so that they can have months of enjoyment.
Ease into the process.
It is very common to eliminate night driving first as aged eyes have more difficulty adjusting to the constant flashes of headlights and distance perception. This is good practice for the parent to adjust their schedule to acceptable drive times. Avoiding rush hour is also common.
Help them find friends with similar interests but a few years younger.
Being active and social is a necessity at any age. So a regularly scheduled activity like water aerobics at the health club can be an excuse to carpool.
Remind them you are foremost concerned about their safety and what they have to live for.
They may agree that natural death is easier on young grandchildren than closed caskets from car accidents. So consider their point-of-view.