I remember the first time my grandpa took my sister and I for a ride in his brand new Honda Odyssey minivan. Oh, we loved it – mostly because we could tell how much he loved it. The car was new, comfortable, and spacious enough to fit family and to go on road trips.
Since the time he first bought it, the Odyssey hit its peak, and plummeted. Racking up over 250,000 miles and multiple trips to the mechanic, my grandpa’s precious car was eventually no longer in any condition to be driven, and he had to junk it. Heartbroken and disappointed, he began questioning where to go from there.
A very active and healthy 85-year-old man, he wasn’t ready to stop driving for good. Not knowing what the future holds in terms of his health, he decided to lease a car for a few years – no long-term commitment and time to figure out his future plans in terms of driving.
Saying goodbye to his Odyssey was an emotional moment in his life. Despite the memories and love he had for the car, he was hit with a tsunami of thoughts about his future with driving.
He began to ask himself – When should I turn in my car keys?
It was difficult for me to picture my grandpa never driving again. This is the man who drives over four hours to Penn State and then home the same day for every home wrestling match and alumni event. His lifestyle would take huge turn if he decided to turn in his keys.
Regardless, his safety is what came first, and because of this, I sat down with him one day to discuss his driving safety and any warning signs that may have surfaced over the years.
We talked about some of the things that may hold him back as a driver. While my grandpa doesn’t have the best hearing in the world, he’s still able to detect normal to loud noises. He may not be able to hear a whisper, but it’s safe to say that he’ll notice a car honking at him or an ambulance driving by. However, if we get to a point when he can’t hold a steady conversation due to hearing problems, we’ll have to reevaluate.
His vision was also taken into consideration. While my grandpa does sport some big retro glasses, they’re actually prescriptionless, and he only wears them as eye protection – he had lasik eye surgery a number of years ago. That being said, he’s pretty good in the eye department. However, it’s very common for people’s vision to worsen with age, so regular eye doctor appointments are important, and you’d be wise to ask for the doctor’s opinion on driving safety in relation to your vision. You don’t want to miss that stop sign or exit number!
We also discussed reaction speed, as impaired reactions can get you into a lot of trouble. I had a difficult time assessing his reaction speed because there were not parameters or measurements for me to go by. However, my grandpa is a very cautious and attentive driver, so even if a car in front of him unexpectedly halted, I know he’d be a far enough distance behind to have time and room to react. If you notice your or your loved one’s reaction speed declining in driving conditions or other daily life activities, consider this a red flag. The danger of impaired reaction speed while driving should not be underestimated.
Thinking back, I asked my grandpa if he’s recently racked up any citations or been involved in any accidents. Although his record is squeaky clean and I hope it stays that way, I have my eye out for these warning signs.
The last and one of the most important topics we talked about what his comfort level when driving. Although he feels confident and safe behind the wheel, he prefers not to drive in the dark or in harsh weather conditions. While some driving situations are more difficult for him, he knows to avoid these scenarios whenever possible. For the most part, he trusts himself to drive, which is a key component to driving safety. If you don’t feel safe taking the wheel, chances are there’s a reason.
After our conversation, I felt confident that my grandpa is safe while driving. He’s not ready to turn in his keys, and I don’t believe he needs to just yet either. That day will come, though, and when it does, I’m prepared to help him evaluate his situation again and make the right choice with him.
If you’ve decided to turn in your keys or are in the process of doing so, you should be prepared for the task to be difficult and emotional. However, I hope you can be confident that you’re making a smart decision that benefits the safety of you and all other people on the roads.
Not being able to get up and go whenever you please may seem trapping, but the benefits and new opportunities are something to keep in mind.
With no more car payments, trips to the mechanic, or empty gas tanks to fill, think about all the money you’ll save.
Since you no longer rely on a car to run short errands, you may be more willing to walk to nearby places and get some extra exercise and fresh air. If you need to go somewhere further than walking distance, ask around for a ride from family, friends, or neighbors. If no one is around at the time you’re in need, consider using a ridesharing app like Uber to get you where you need to go at your convenience. Whether you catch a ride with a friend or Uber, enjoy the company and socialization!
Need help deciding your next steps with driving? Ask A Pup for suggestions!
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