Opinion: Dear Susi Q


How Can I Convince My Daughter That I’m a Capable Driver?

Dear Susi Q: My daughter tells me I shouldn’t be driving. But when I’m a passenger, she floors the accelerator and I think she drives much more dangerously than I do. Not that she will listen to me. How can I convince her that I’m perfectly capable of driving safely? — 75 and still a good driver

Kathleen “Kay” Wenger is clinical supervisor of behavioral health programs at the Susi Q Senior Center. Photo courtesy of Laguna Beach Seniors

Kathleen “Kay” Wenger, LMFT, LPCC, Clinical Supervisor, Behavioral Health Programs at the Susi Q; Owner, LagunaBeachCounseling.com responds:

Dear 75 and still a good driver:
One of my clients is in his late eighties and is still an excellent driver. His eyesight is good and he’s not suffering cognitive decline. However, the truth is that he’s an exception. Age brings with it certain limitations that can dent one’s driving skills.

Bear in mind that your daughter is acting out of love for you. I’m sure she doesn’t want any harm to come to you. However, I understand how annoying it can be to be criticized in this way! So do be sure your driving abilities are as good as you think they are.

Perhaps agree to certain limitations to your driving that will reassure her: no driving on freeways or after dark, for example. Let her accompany you in the car to prove you still have the skills.

I went through this with my father when it was time for him to give up his license. We did our best to be sensitive to his feelings and talked to him lovingly about his options. What seemed to resonate with him was his fear that he might accidentally cause harm to others.

Either way, I’d strongly recommend that all older adults prepare in advance for the eventuality that there will come a day when it’s not safe for them to drive. I suggest researching transportation options in advance, looking at schedules and destinations. Here in Laguna, we have Sally’s Fund transportation at 949-499-4100, as well as Laguna Local, which is an on-demand transit service reachable at 949-497-0766, and public buses. Think about these trips as opportunities for adventure and socializing with fellow riders!

I know it’s not easy to contemplate a future without the independence that driving offers. That may not be something you have to face right now. But when you do, please know that the Susi Q offers free counseling, paid for by donations, through its Feeling the Blues program, to help you process this loss and the anxiety and depression it can bring with it.

Martha Hernandez, director of care management at the Susi Q.

Martha Hernandez, LCSW, Director of Care Management responds:

Dear 75 and still a good driver,
Your daughter may be reassured if you sign up for programs available to help you drive safely as you get older. For example, from time to time AARP and Susi Q host Smart Driver Courses. Visit thesusiq.org often to check when they might be scheduled next. There’s no test, but this class is a great way to brush up your skills, especially defensive driving. It may also convince your daughter that she doesn’t need to be your valet – at least, not yet!

A good idea is to consult your insurance company. They may know of programs such as AARP’s CarFit, which assesses your car and your “fit” as its driver. The focus is on how well your car is adjusted to you—can you see over the steering wheel? As well as, for example, whether your mirrors are set properly, and lights and blinkers working. A CarFit check takes about 20 minutes to complete and may earn you an insurance discount.

These days, with cameras in our cars, it’s easy to forget to use your mirrors and physically check the traffic to the side and behind you. I strongly recommend turning your head to look—it’s safer—and also because it works those neck muscles!

When you do decide to give up that license, think of the things you won’t have to worry about any more—such as the cost of car insurance and maintenance, not to mention gas!

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“Dear Susi Q,” brought to you by nonprofit Laguna Beach Seniors, is intended to provide helpful advice for readers on matters including relationships, retirement, home safety, transportation, mental/physical health, and local entertainment and educational resources. It’s “Dear Abby” for the Laguna Beach crowd.

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