Maintaining safety for seniors behind the wheel–and everyone else on the road with them–is an ongoing goal. Select Home Care recently spoke with Matt Gurwell, formerly of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. After a successful 24-year-long career, he followed his passion for keeping the roads safe and developed the Enhanced Self-Assessmant Program for the organization he founded: Keeping Us Safe. He gave us some insight as to why this transition is such a difficult one for seniors.

Lt. Matt Gurwell and George W. Bush

Lt. Matt Gurwell and George W. Bush – Photo courtesy of KeepingUsSafe.org

It goes without saying that for any of us, driving represents freedom, control, and of course, a degree of personal independence; but this is particularly true for the older driver. Here are five reasons a senior driver may not be willing to retire from driving, despite what may be obvious and quantifiable safety reasons:

1) For a senior driver, losing the ability to drive can be an obvious emotional set-back. In some cases, this set-back can be even more complicated when combined with recent losses such as the death of a spouse, a close friend, or a recent diagnosis of a serious health condition.

Imagine for a moment that only months ago your spouse of 50+ years died unexpectedly, and now your adult children are trying to take your car away from you. Or that just last week you were diagnosed with cancer, and today your family doctor compounded your anguish by suggesting that for safety reasons you stop driving, effective immediately. The recipient of all of this wonderful news would certainly feel like a tsunami of doom had just reached their beach.

2) A senior driver may believe that if he/she can no longer drive, they will become a burden to others. This may be the furthest thing from the truth, but it becomes very real in the eyes of the beholder. Imagine for just one minute that you can suddenly no longer drive…ever. Although completely unwarranted, it is human nature to feel at least somewhat burdensome asking others for help getting you to and from your doctor’s appointments. Taking you to get groceries. Driving you to the hairdresser or barber. Taking you to visit an old friend.

3) Many seniors see a surrender of their driver’s license as an acknowledgement that their physical wellness, agility, mental sharpness, reflexes, sight, hearing, or memory are beginning to deteriorate. Or that an illness or pre-existing medical condition is “getting worse.”

4) Many older drivers believe that if they give up their driving, they will have fewer social opportunities than what they are accustomed to.

5) Despite everyone’s best efforts, driving cessation can sometimes trigger depression in elderly people which in turn can cause a noticeable deterioration in your loved one’s physical health.

There are obviously many, many more examples of the emotional distress driving cessation can cause for an older driver. The good news is a retirement from a long and successful driving career does not have to be all doom and gloom, and it does not have to be the equal of “house arrest.”

Keeping Us Safe provides services to both older drivers and their families. You can visit them online at www.keepingussafe.org or call toll-free at (877) 907-8841 for more information. For additional help caring for an elderly or disabled loved one, contact us today to learn more about our at-home care services. We have locations across the country, including Westlake Village. Call today! (877) 230-3160