Are we unintentionally harming our elderly loved ones by our well-intentioned actions? We often ask them to give up driving because of safety concerns, but then we have younger generations who lack essential driving skills in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Is that a fair trade-off? Sometimes, we might assume that our elderly relatives are finished with certain aspects of life. I recently had a conversation with a remarkable 93-year-old man who shared his perspective. He told me that if his children were to take away his ability to drive and, subsequently, his autonomy, he would feel as though his life was over. When should we, as parents or older adults, welcome our children’s intervention in handling our physical abilities? When do you believe it’s appropriate for your kids or loved ones to step in and make decisions about your independence? Let’s talk about it…

Frank Burton:
“Regarding driving in particular, they can pose a threat to themselves and others. With issues like dementia, confusion, bad eyesight and slow reflexes to name a few. That being said, I don’t think they should just age out but that everyone gets tested for these things. Everyone ages differently so we can’t treat them all the same. My thoughts on it anyway. Great question!”

John Bell: “I am 71 and volunteered to retake my Texas CDL. I had not driven an 18 wheeler or larger in over 15 years. I am a Texas resident. I passed all of the written tests and driving tests. This includes backing, parallel parking and road tests. Also passed triples, doubles, tanker and hazmat. I feel as long as your brain is functioning there is no need for a retest. It is the young drivers that can’t leave the cell phone alone while driving that is the problem.”

Mikey Barrera: “In my opinion, you can do what you can when you can and if you can’t do it no more, then you can’t. We often forget that when we were born, we could not take care of ourselves. As we age and get older, we kind of revert to that, people feeding you and changing your diapers. You not listening and a whole bunch of crying, like I said if you can you can.”

Elsa Sixtos: “When I’m on a machine, disconnect it and get on with your lives.”

Rick Carter: “They should have stopped me from driving long before becoming a senior. I know terrible drivers. This gentleman is 93 and still has all his wits. He is not just fighting the aging process but fighting his kids too.”

Roy Cruz: “Heavy topic.. I’ll think about that one. Very good point.”

Peter Valentine: “I am 78 and would be very happy to take a test of continuing competence.”

Bill Johnston: “ I’m an old guy (71, soon) and I do believe there should be some point at which competency to drive should be re-evaluated. I like to drive, and I like to drive with a sense of pride about my skill levels. I pay attention to how I operate a vehicle (car, truck, or motorcycle) and in approximately 2 million miles of driving have never caused an accident.”

Nicholas Beck : “Yes! This is a very serious subject, even though some tend to make light of Mr. and Mrs. Magoo drivers. I’m afraid of elderly drivers. The truly dangerous ones are in DENIAL. I need to be careful with such statements since I’m now a senior myself! I’ve had many close calls with elderly drivers during my life, but my grandma takes the cake. This was 38 years ago in Los Angeles. Her ability to drive safely dissolved, completely, by age 75-ish. She was flat-out deadly, which came to my attention after learning of her numerous minor accidents in the span of one year. I rode along with her to see just how bad it was. She ran a stop sign and a red light, changed lanes without looking, narrowly missed pedestrians who were halfway through a crosswalk while stating that there was plenty of room to go around them… and then there was the ‘ol senior classic — pressing accelerator instead of brake. After a few minutes of this I knew she was done behind the wheel, because this is friggin NUTS! ‘Pull over Grams!’ I was soaked in sweat. I had a long talk with her — with me glassed-over and pleading — but it made no impact on her. ‘Don’t worry honey, I’m okay. I need a car sweetie pie, you know that.’ Then I got mad. ‘Goddammit Grams, you’re going to kill someone! I’m NOT kidding!’ I drove her home, kissed her on the forehead, told her to call me if she needed a ride after 5pm or on the weekend, and took her car keys with me. She agreed to stop driving.But after I left she called a locksmith.This was like a deathwatch. I took her keys yet again, but she’d had many spares made, apparently. She kept driving. I brought other family members into it, no help. I notified police; she was not DUI so there’s nothing they could do. I contacted her insurance agent; he said they were aware of the situation and were looking into it (she was paying an enormous probationary premium because of all the minor accidents). Her physician told me there was nothing he could do legally, and then lectured me on life in America and the freedoms we all cherish. It was her word against mine. I begged the Dept. of Motor Vehicles for an urgent intervention; they agreed to notify her to come in for the driving test… but when!? I spoke with an attorney who recommended I hound the DMV every day about her deadly driving and numerous fender-benders. I did. Weeks went by. Grandma somehow managed to delay or subvert all attempts to curb her driving. While waiting for these agencies to do something, I began a campaign of sabotaging her baby blue 1974 Rambler Ambassador (dented all to hell) with a bumper sticker that read “Let me tell you about my Grandchildren.” I felt terrible, but I removed the car’s ignition distributor. Another time I removed a wheel and put it in my trunk. I pulled fuses. I put on a steering wheel lock. I fouled the carburetor. Now desperate to stop her from driving, I began ripping-out wires under the instrument panel. Each time, her AAA Auto Club got her up and running again at great cost. Why wasn’t anyone listening to me? I hatched a plan to temporarily hide her car without being arrested for grand theft auto, but before I could work out the logistics she ran a stop sign and slammed (clipped) a carload of kids. Amazingly, Grandma was not physically hurt, but the cops had to pry her vice-grip fingers from the steering wheel. I read in the report that she was in shock and babbling incoherently in disbelief. Thankfully, she hit only the REAR of the other car, spinning it around. A few of the kids had bad bruises and deep cuts to their faces requiring sutures, some with possible concussions, but at least there was no paralysis or death. I immediately took the police report to the DMV, and from there to her insurance company. The next day her license was revoked. NOW they listened to me. I had her car repaired and then sold it for her. I get chills thinking about those kids, and Grandma, and how bad it could’ve been if it was a direct T-bone broadside at 40 mph. Seniors, say beginning at age 65, (I am age 64) need more extensive and frequent testing before a driver’s license renewal is granted — yes, maybe every 12 to 18 months. And of course, I include myself in that group. Research is now revealing that dementia, in all its variations and for all its numerous causes, is sneaky. The depth of it may only come to light under reasoning and dexterity testing (and certainly a road test), not just simpler memory testing.”