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NORTH SHORE SENIORS: Driving and elderly seniors
As a home-care support provider, adult children often ask me if I can recommend a way to talk to their elderly parent about giving up their driver’s licence.
Many worry that their elderly loved one should no longer be driving. It would be great to say that it is an easy task, but asking an elderly senior to give up their driver’s licence is probably one of the hardest things an adult child will ever ask — and something that a lot of seniors will strongly resist doing.
The stats on elderly drivers in Canada and B.C. are somewhat dated but we get the overall picture. In 2005, approximately 2,860,500 seniors were licensed to drive in Canada. A senior is anyone over the age of 65 years old and that represented then around 13 per cent of licensed drivers. Those same statistics reported that 481 Canadian seniors died and just over 16,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Seniors represented almost 16 per cent of total fatalities and 8 per cent of injuries in motor vehicle collisions, according to Transport Canada.
Some of the reasons seniors are involved in such a high percentage of accidents are evaluation errors — not giving themselves enough time to make the turn, for instance — or simply not being able to see the other vehicle properly. It is quite clear that with the aging process, response time is diminished and if you couple that with physical impairment, poor hearing and visual problems it can be a complete disaster for an elderly driver.
Elderly seniors who have made the self-assessment along with their families and have decided that they should no longer drive have happily moved forward.
For those seniors who have never had an accident in their 60 to 70 years of driving and feel that they are still capable of driving and cherish their independence, it is a harder reality to hear that they may need to stop driving.
If not handled delicately it can lead to despair and major depression and let’s face it, becoming dependant on someone else for transportation needs can limit one’s freedom.
According to BC Seniors Guide, older adults live 7-10 years beyond their driving ability and so it becomes very important to know what the next steps will be.
There are several programs, some of which are free, that can help elderly seniors become more aware of the changes and make realistic decisions about the impact those changes will have on their ability to drive safely.
- BC Driver Fitness programs – Beginning at the age of 80, seniors are regularly assessed for issues that may affect their driving abilities.
- Older Driver Workshops by BCAA Road Safety – Living Well, Driving Well.
- Beyond Driving with Dignity — A paid, self-assessment program.
If you have made a self-assessment and have decided to give up your driver’s licence, ask someone to help you find out about services in your community that are available to help you continue to be independent such as Handy Dart, Taxis Saver coupons, accompaniment services for seniors, relatives, friends and neighbours.
With one in seven Canadians now 65 years or older, there are more seniors driving than ever before.
Our streets and roads are becoming busier, and as that happens, we want all our family members to be safe.
Elderly seniors should continue to have the right to drive as long as they, and the people around them, are safe from harm.
— Elizabeth Shewchuk owns Daughter for a Day Seniors Care in North Vancouver, which provides companionship and accompaniment for seniors.