The all encompassing life decision
One of the most difficult decisions to make when aging is do we stop driving. First, driving has been an expression of independence and financial status. The baby boomer generation it became more of a statement of independence. We could drive and many of us owned a car prior to moving away from the home we shared with our parents. America has had a love affair with the automobile since it conception.
The independence afforded us has also given way to every aspect of our lifestyle. Automobiles gave us the ability to travel further, quicker and in comfort than ever before. The ability to travel gave way to more choices in education and work, while also embedding itself into our concept of family. I am sure you can see the ‘road’ we are traveling down. So now the question is how can we voluntarily give up a part of our being? Giving up the automobile is like asking us to give up inside plumbing and electricity. They are built in to our lives just as sure as bathing and breathing.
Just as we contemplate this extension of our life, it is also quite apparent that the automobile and our lives have come to a crossroad that must be taken. This column is not the forecast of our towns, cities, atmosphere or the influence of our ability to become financially independent. We are focused on what happens when in the due course of aging our reflexes slow down, our eyesight is diminished and our memory is slipping. Does this happen to everybody? Yes, to one degree or another and each person will experience a difference in the enhancements in quality of life. Some will remain strong while losing their eyesight while others will experience diminishing memory and still others, will find significant disruption of quality of life and yet, another will experience none of these.
This column is focused on our independence to make a very important decision that is almost as important as the decisions regarding our medical care, a decision that has clearly decisively importance on our lifestyle. Many of us have never used mass transit and have reached a time in our lives when a ‘new’ method of getting from one place to another is in fact a major undertaking. When we are in our 70’s and live in interurban America, we think more of personal safety than ever before.
Okay, for all the years we were working and paying taxes the money going into mass transit was (in our minds) for the other person. Even when living in very large metropolitan areas, we used parking lots and continued driving. Now we are seeing the urgency of government to provide more mass transit and taking away the need for driving from point “A” to point “B”. We can still justify our driving as point “B” is still within a comfortable distance of Point “C”, our distention.
Here is the flaw; we don’t want to give up our automobile. And when our health is the reason to give it up, more often than not there is a major depression that follows the relinquishing of the keys. The problem frequently is the safety of those around us and/or our own safety. We know we should give it up driving but this is a hard decision. And certainly no one else should try to tell us to stop driving. The problem with this is many times that is the only way for us to stop. And it is so much better if we stop driving before an accident (driving through the wall of a business, is an accident) or we become so frustrated when we cannot find our way that we have a medical ‘episode’.
So what is our family supposed to do in this instance? Support us, would be the most loving way. However, we are threatened and frequently react as angry and threatening back, we need time to think all of the decision through. Family needs to provide support and problem solving suggestions to guide us through this decision (remember many of us have not used anything but our auto to go from here to there). Certainly our country has not kept up with this evolution; community transit, mass transit and the population are not tuned to each other.
Here are some thoughts to possibly help make this decision a little easier:
- Let another authority figure make the decision or suggestion (Doctor, police, etc.).
- Take the time to go to local transit and inquire about the services.
- Many times seniors and disabled will have the access to ‘door to door’ service.
- Check into services offered through paid help, after all our seniors and disabled are owed some services in the communities they have built.
- Make sure we (the adult children) realize the great sacrifice our family member is making. (Effectively they have amputated a limb from their own body.)
- Show respect for a decision made which was one of the most difficult ever required of the person.
Next week: We have all seen the slogan “Getting old isn’t for sissys’. How can we approach this juncture of our life with grace and pride?