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Understand And Influence Older Drivers

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Understand And Influence Older Drivers

Geoff Maxted
November 5, 2013

Jaguar F-Type
The sad fact is that we all get old. There are many plus points to getting older in terms of knowledge and wisdom, so we’re told, but the fact is that old age brings with it a certain frailty to a greater or lesser degree. As a matter of course older people deal with these things stoically and continue to enjoy life and this, of course, includes driving.

Nevertheless, for many older people there comes a time when it is no longer appropriate to be in charge of a tonne of hot rushing metal. The trouble is, some elderly drivers can feel quite defensive about their driving and any criticism of it. Yours truly has had some of this with an aged relative. Either the change is so gradual they don’t notice or they know very well but see the alternative understandably as a lost freedom.

To counter this some drivers change their style to demonstrate to the world that they have still got what it takes - and it’s not just the men either. It has been shown that they tend to drive faster, more aggressively and assertively than they had done before. When challenged, these people become even more defensive and the whole thing spirals out of control.

Talking to an elderly relative about driving – especially if the goal is to get that person to hang up the car keys – needs to be part of a properly planned approach that’s sensitive and constructive. It is best not to say anything off the cuff but rather line up some sensible ideas and suggestions to help them, rather than simply expressing panic and concern at his or her driving style. By showing care and compassion, we can help an elderly person make a smoother transition to a less mobile lifestyle.

Put yourself in their shoes. The best way to do this is by experiencing life without the car yourself. This will help you appreciate both the drawbacks and the advantages. Raising the matter of safety and retiring from driving a year or more in advance might mean you’re spared the need to spring it on them at the last minute. You can work together over a period of time to make a few small adjustments in driving style, vehicle and journey type. Explore the practical options your relative will have to remain as mobile as possible. If you’re going to talk about using the bus, then research the timetable, for example. Don’t focus solely on the necessary journeys. Shopping and the like is something we all do regularly but remember folk also like to go on outings or, indeed, just for a drive. What are the alternatives for them?

The matter of ageing and lose of mobility comes to us all. Perhaps by helping an elderly relative come to terms with it will help you when it’s your turn. And it will be your turn.

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