How To Stay Independent and Mobile in Retirement
By Judith Crosson ~
Reaching Older Adult Drivers Program ~
Retirement gives us a chance to do the things we have always wanted to do; see the people we want to see and visit places we love.
Sometimes during this wonderful time issues crop up. For some, health problems may make daily activities more difficult. For others, sight or other cognitive problems may begin to develop. In spite of such challenges, retirees want to stay independent and mobile. The good news is solutions are at hand.
For the past six years, the Reaching Older Adult Drivers (ROAD) Program, a Colorado Department of Transportation traffic safety grantee, has been increasing awareness of safe driving practices among older drivers. ROAD’s Getting There Together program encourages retired drivers to embrace alternative forms of transportation.
Stay Independent Longer
The name of the game is independence so keep driving if you are able to do so safely. Overall, seniors have good driving habits. Older drivers often say they are reluctant to drive at night or in bad weather. This is wise because 75 percent of road fatalities occur at night. Generally, older drivers do not drink and drive and are more likely to buckle their seat belt.
There are things we can do to extend our time behind the wheel. According to AAA, placing cushions in our car so we are seated higher and can see better is a simple and inexpensive improvement. Most new cars include back up TV screens to help with parking. Other systems help you stay in your lane and alert you when other cares area nearby. Using cruise control can reduce the urge to speed.
Refresh Driving Skills
The Road Program (roadprogram.org) offers information on refreshing your driving skills and guidance on the top concerns of older drivers such as driving at night, driving outside of the neighborhood and turning left at intersections. “Making sure the bottoms of your shoes are not wet and slippery when you step on the peddle or the brake can go a long way in avoiding an accident.” says Sylvia Cordy, a traffic safety advocate with the ROAD program.
There are other solutions too. AARP, the group that focuses on issues important to seniors, offers a smart driver course focused on improving skills for everyday driving and defensive driving techniques to deal with aggressive drivers. After completing the course you may receive a discount on auto insurance.
Retiring the Car Keys
A lot has been written about taking the car keys away from seniors. Adult children say they worry about mom or dad being on the road. It is incredibly challenging to think about loosing freedom.
However, there will come a time when you must consider your driving retirement. For example, hesitancy to get into the car is a first sign that something may be wrong. Notice if there are days when you are nervous about driving somewhere or if your spouse hesitates to get in the car with you.
You may not be able to judge if your driving skills are not what they used to be. After all, you may have been driving since you were a teenager and it is second nature to get behind the week. Seek out a trusted friend, your adult child or doctor for input.
The key to safety for older adults is to address problems when they arise. “With increasing age come changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities that can challenge a person’s continued ability to drive safely,” says Cordy. “But there are a variety of safe travel options and focusing on these solutions is key.”
Alternative Transportation Resources
Senior drivers who want to maintain an active, independent lifestyle without driving are increasingly choosing these alternatives:
- Asking for rides from family, friends and neighbors
- Using public transit
- Joining ride sharing services such as Lyft and Uber
- Taking a taxi
Many faith-based institutions, malls, senior residential facilities, day care centers and others offer free transportation for seniors.
Let the ROAD Program guide you to safer driving. And when it is time to retire the keys, look to ROAD for information about alternative forms of transportation. We will not abandon you when the road gets rough.