Like many non-Americans, I didn’t have that big getting-your-license-and-keys-to-the car experience that we saw on TV. We all took public transportation, walked – and especially biked. We’d bike miles every day but admired the American kids who, at the tender age of 16, were tooling around independently in cars, driving to school and living that all-American life that we European kids admired.
Parents are filled with so many emotions when their children begin to drive. Relief not to have to drive them all over town and country roads to get where they need to go. Dread at the thought of accidents and knowing that their children are only steps away from full independence. But they have trained their children, taught them every rule of the road and issued a checklist of capabilities needed to earn that precious license. How we strive to bring our kids to adulthood, with good hearts and minds! Yet how we fight it when it looms so closely. The push-pull factors of parenthood forever intertwined!
Now fast forward to old age and the same thing happens all over again. Except this time, the adult child is the one evaluating if their parent is capable of driving. And this time around, it’s the aging parent with the dreaded thought that they may lose their independence - and are forced to look at the low points of old age deep in the eye. American teenagers are mandated by law to reach a certain age before driving. There has been talk that perhaps they then should be mandated to end that privilege when they again meet a certain age.
The elderly do have different considerations than younger drivers and they are both physical and mental. Their vision and hearing changes, as do their perceptions of distance. And if we’re honest – the elderly do tend to drive rather slowly. Even though this is often done for cautionary measures, we all know how frustrating it is to be in a no-passing zone with an elderly driver doing 20 miles an hour under the posted limit. Slow driving can also cause accidents. Illnesses like diabetes and memory loss can cause great danger on the roads.
Let’s talk about that memory loss.