My Parents Transition to the Passenger Seat

Part One: Older Drivers: A Family Affair

My parents have given me permission to tell their story—this story. The transition from driving is a family affair. I dedicate this story to their good hearts, to my family, and to the millions of families across the nation who will gather for the holidays and struggle with this hidden problem. How do older people make the transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat with dignity and independence?

I began talking to my sister and brothers about our parents’ situation a few months before Liberty Mutual asked me to write about the transition from driving for their website. At first, I only wanted to write about statistically significant research results, but they encouraged me to write from my 20 years of experience with older drivers and their families and what I knew to be the core issues. There is a time for science, and a time for heart and instinct, and I think that in the best leaps in understanding they just blend together.

What the good folks at Liberty Mutual did not know is that I was writing from my own life events, as well as my professional experience, and that I have actually taken my own advice. I think they call this “taking a dose of your own medicine.”

Like many families, ours is spread over several states, so the conversation began by email among the adult children. I got things started by writing to everyone saying that I thought we needed to talk about how to support our parents’ wishes before there was a health crisis or an emergency. At the time, my mother was 84, my dad 93, and they were living independently in their own home. Both were driving, and I knew we were on thin ice. Better to aim for the shore before it cracks, I thought. It was only a matter of time.

To be continued…

Possible Next Chapters:
Part Two: Say “I love you” and be patient
Part Three: Moving Forward Again, Safely