|Americans are living longer, healthier – and driving later in life. And for older adults, driving plays an important role in their mobility, independence and overall quality of life.
For years there's been a heated nationwide debate about the safety of older drivers. This discussion often centers on the question “At what age should an older driver stop driving?” which often leads to questions about mandatory testing for older drivers. At The Hartford, we believe the real question that needs to be answered is: “How can older adults continue to drive safely for as long as possible?”
The Role of Families
Families can play a very important role in supporting an older relative to drive safely, since they are more familiar with each other's health, driving habits and skills. They may notice changes in driving behavior long before a stranger or even a helpful professional would be able to do so. For many older adults, conversations about driving take place between spouses or adult children. In fact, original research conducted by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab showed that older adults preferred that the majority of these conversations be held with family members, or a physician. However, not all of these family conversations are well-informed or productive. For family members to be supportive when it comes to driving safety, they need to be knowledgeable and sensitive to engage in a successful conversation.
If you have a client who is concerned about the driving safety of an older relative, you can suggest the following steps:
It's not always easy for family members to broach this uncomfortable topic. Getting off to a good start can make the difference between success and failure. Although challenging, these conversations can work. According to The Hartford's research, more than half of older adults followed the suggestions made in conversations about driving.
The Hartford developed a consumer guidebook We Need to Talk that offers families a multi-step approach to planning candid, effective discussions about older driver safety, from positive conversation starters to advice on which family member should broach the topic We Need to Talk also features strategies for alternative transportation and recommendations on what to do if a high-risk driver refuses to stop driving. Copies are available on iMarket.
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