Driving is only partly about getting from one place to another. It’s also sing-alongs in solitude, quiet reflections on the day, vacations with family or long drives to nowhere in particular.
One of the hardest moments in the aging process is knowing when it’s time to give up driving. To help answer that question, the Clayton Center for Active Aging will host a seminar, “We Need to Talk,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the Clayton Community Center, 715 Amelia Church Road.
Martha Mobley, an AARP volunteer, will lead the discussion.
“Older drivers don’t always realize they’re having problems, or if they do, they don’t think it’s that serious,” Mobley said. “The program talks about having a family conversation, introducing the idea slowly, through hints or suggestions and maintaining dignity. That’s the big thing.”
Even a suggestion that an older family give up driving can quickly turn into a combative and resentful conversation, Mobley said. One thing she stresses is family members keeping an open mind and not thinking of the conversation as “taking the keys.”
“You want to suggest to them that you don’t feel safe,” Mobley said. “Remember, you’re talking to another adult, an adult who’s always been the parent and the one deciding what they want to do. You don’t tell your parents what to do. People resent being told what to do and will just want to do the opposite.”
Trading places, with the adult child advising the parent, can be one of the biggest obstacles to understanding, Mobley said.
“The thing is a lot of people don’t think of their parents as any other human, per se,” she said. “Then there’s a role reversal, where the parent begins acting like the child or the teenager.”
Up to age 65, North Carolina drivers renew their license every eight years. After that, the state requires renewal every five years. The Division of Motor Vehicles can also test a driver at a family member’s request.
Failing vision is one reason older drivers might need to reconsider getting behind the wheel, Mobley said. Others are limited range of motion, hearing loss and slower problem-solving skills.
“There really is no age that says you should have your license taken away,” Mobley said. “If you look up YouTube videos, there are 90-year-olds working out on balance beams. Plenty of older adults are remaining active socially and constantly learning.”
Many older adults are reluctant to give up their license because they fear a loss of independence, Mobley said. That’s especially true in rural counties like Johnston.
“In Clayton, there’s not a lot of public transportation options,” she said. “If you don’t have you car, you might fear losing your independence.”
Tuesday’s seminar is free to attend. For more information, or to register, call 919-553-4350.
919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdjackson