One of the dilemmas you may have to face with your aging parents is driving. Common medical conditions associated with aging include loss of vision, hearing, decreased perception, decreased memory, reduced strength, reduced flexibility, deteriorating peripheral vision, and reduced movement. This may make it difficult for aged drivers to see vehicles, pedestrians, signs, and road hazards. Driving requires attention, memory, and judgement, which become increasingly compromised as we age. These can also be further aggravated by an increased use of medication.
In response, the Australian government provides a different regime of licensing requirements for people as they age. Drivers aged 75 and older must have a medical assessment every year to keep their licence. Once they reach age 85, they are provided with two options. They can either opt for a yearly medical assessment plus an on-road driving assessment, or they can opt for a modified licence. The modified license requires annual medical assessment, but no on-road test. However, the modified license places restrictions on where, how far, and when the person may drive.
Many aged people are confronted with the reality they simply can no longer drive safely. Driving can form a significant part of an older personâ€™s identity, and attachment to driving can make losing the ability to drive distressing. Telling a person to stop driving may lead to significant social isolation, depression, and may negatively affect their self-esteem. For many people, driving is a symbol of their independence and having to give up their right to drive can be an intensely painful experience. Seniors may require emotional and practical support during this transitional period. The emotional support will change from person to person, and you will be the best person to judge how to do so.
There are two practical tips to share for those who find themselves in this situation.
First, remember, a license is not only a symbol of independence, but also the most common form of photo identification. There will be instances post driving, where they may still be required to provide a current form of photo identification. Some states in Australia will offer to provide a photo identification card free of charge when a person surrenders their driverâ€™s license. Check into it for your loved one. Information on the New South Wales photo identification card can be viewed at this link:Â http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/licence/nsw-photo-card.html
Second, consider the possibility of getting a mobility scooter for Mum or Dad. Mobility scooters are used by less mobile people, and the same rules that apply to pedestrians apply to drivers of a motor scooter. No license is required and a maximum speed limit of 10 km/h applies.