The Driving Talk With Aging Seniors

by John Sullivan on Jun 24, 2014

“I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather did, not kicking and screaming like the passengers in his car.”  No one wants this old joke to become a tragic reality. Is it time to ask your aging parent to surrender their car keys and stop driving their car?  

I did NOT have this conversation with my dad.  He had a fender-bender (fortunately minor) accident at age 89 and then, to his credit, voluntarily gave up driving.  “Nine in 10 boomer children of senior drivers think it is important to have driving conversations with their aging parents, but few are taking action - thus, not addressing potential safety risks on the roads,” said David Melton, driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety.

A 2013 survey released by Liberty Mutual Insurance, parent company of Safeco Insurance, reports a significant gap between the number of baby boomer children of senior drivers concerned about their parents’ driving abilities (55 percent) and the number who are actually having conversations with their parents about the issue (23 percent). Further, 29 percent of boomer children say they are likely to avoid the conversation entirely.

TIPS FOR APPROACHING THE DRIVING CONVERSATION 

Boomers’ concerns about senior driving are valid, with 17 percent of all U.S. traffic fatalities happening to older individuals, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2011, 5,401 people aged 65 and older were killed and 185,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. “Aging is an inevitable occurrence that has several implications,” added Melton. “It’s important that we recognize that age can bring changes that impact one’s driving abilities. Each individual situation is unique, which is why Liberty Mutual Insurance encourages boomer children to talk openly with their parents about driving.”

Liberty Mutual Insurance offers tips and resources for talking to senior loved ones about driving, including:

  • Take a ride with your parents and observe their driving. Watch their awareness of their driving environment. Do they have slow reaction times? Are there dents, close calls, tickets or warnings? 
  • Discuss the topic early and have realistic expectations, as it is likely that the matter will not be resolved with the first discussion. 
  • Look into alternate transportation solutions and be prepared to discuss options – if you are not available, perhaps public transportation or a volunteer organization like Faith In Action.

“Earlier and more frequent conversations about senior driving are essential.  If people take away one lesson from this study, it is to have this conversation with your loved ones – and have it soon,” recommends Melton.

The U.S. population aged 65 and older is estimated to increase from 47 million in 2015 to 72 million in 2030, meaning more senior drivers will be on the roads than ever before. This also means that more adult children may need to have difficult conversations with their aging parents about driving.

There are a number of options to help senior drivers maintain a responsible level of mobility and independence.  Liberty Mutual Insurance is proud to partner with ITNAmerica, the first and only national nonprofit network for America’s aging population, which promotes sustainable, community-based transportation solutions for seniors.  Through caring volunteers from the local community, ITNAmerica provides rides for seniors in private automobiles 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Today’s older Americans are among the most active and community-engaged seniors in our nation’s history, and mobility and independence are essential to preserve those great qualities,” said Katherine Freund, founder and president of ITNAmerica. “Liberty Mutual Insurance’s findings further strengthen the need for families to have the conversation with seniors, as well as provide more alternative transportation resources to help them make responsible driving decisions.”

About the Liberty Mutual Insurance Senior Driving Survey

Ketchum Global Research & Analytics designed and analyzed this countrywide phone survey (with 5 percent cell sample) of 1,007 adults ages 40 to 65 with at least one living parent who drives (boomer children of senior drivers). Braun Research fielded the survey from May 14 to May 20, 2013 and the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.01 percent.

For additional information, visit www.LibertyMutual.com/seniordriving.

Source: Liberty Mutual Insurance, News Release – October 1, 2013 

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