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Helping Aging Parents Plan for Driving Retirement! (Ep #016)

 

 You’ve heard about people retiring from work, right? They make a plan, set a date, and spend some time preparing financially, physically, and emotionally for this big transition. Retiring from work is a conversation that, as a society, we're pretty comfortable having. 

 

Now, let me ask you, have you ever heard of a Driving Retirement Plan?!!

 

Well in today’s episode, I will be talking about a driving retirement plan and how you can help your aging parents begin to plan for their driving retirement. 

 

 

Did you know that 78% of family caregivers provide transportation for loved ones?!

I need to repeat this! 78% of family caregivers provide transportation for loved ones!  Transportation is the most requested type of assistance by older adults!!  (National Family Caregiver Alliance and AARP Public Policy Institute, 2015 Report on Caregiving in the U.S.)

 

 

That's why it's so important that we’re having this conversation!

                   

Today, I’ll be talking about a driving retirement plan and how you can help your aging parents to plan for driving retirement. 

 

Just as older adults need support with retiring from work, they also need support in thinking about retiring from driving. For some people, retirement happens all at once and for others, it happens in stages. But with any type of retirement, it's better if it's planned, rather than forced.

 

If we can help our aging parents to think about retiring from driving in the same way that they think about retiring from work, maybe we can prevent some of the common problems that happen when people stop driving. 

 

Research shows that when older adults stop driving, they’re less likely to spend time with friends and in their community, they’re more likely to feel like a burden on others, and more likely to become depressed. 

 

Research also shows that most older adults will stop driving at some point before they die. In fact, women are expected to live on average for 10 years after they stop driving and men for 7 years. So, it's really important that we get a jump start on a retirement plan!

 

So, Here are 5 steps for helping your aging parents create a driving retirement plan!

 

Step #1: Talk About Driving Retirement

Just as you might talk about retirement from work with your aging parent, I encourage you to talk about driving retirement with them as well. 

 

Start out slowly by asking if they’ve ever heard the term "Driving Retirement". 

 

Maybe say, “hey, I read this blog article that talked about Driving Retirement… have you ever even heard of that? What do you think?” 

 

Then give your parent some space to think aloud. Try to be open, curious, and non-judgmental (even if they say something you disagree with), just as if you’re talking to a close friend. If this conversation ends and you feel that a lot has been unsaid, it can help to remember that this is one of many conversations to come. You don’t have to plan for driving retirement all at once.

 

Having many conversations, over and over, about driving retirement will help you and your aging parent prepare emotionally and practically for this big transition. In these conversations, try to  remain open, loving, and give your parent opportunities and resources to really think about and plan for driving retirement. 

 

Step 2: Think about the Timing

Each person’s timeline for driving retirement is different.

It’s not fair to say "all people must stop driving by their 80th birthday!" A person’s timeline for stopping driving has to do with their own unique aging and health process. Your parent may have medical conditions that started early in their life and progress quickly causing them to retire from driving in their 60’s (or even younger). Or, maybe your parent has had relatively good health most of their life allowing them to drive well into their 90’s.

 

One way to think about the timing to suggest that your parent meet with their primary care provider to understand their own body and hear their doctor’s recommendations regarding the future of their driving. 



Step 3: Location! Location! Location!

When planning ahead for driving retirement, it can help to think about where your aging parent plans to live as they enter the later stages of their older adulthood. 

 

Studies show that 87% of older adults want to remain in their current community as they age. 

 

But, if they are planning to move in their older adulthood (like to live closer to you or to a warmer climate), consider helping them think about finding a place to live that’s close to shopping, restaurants, medical providers, the pharmacy, and other amenities. Taking the time to think about this could save them money on transportation costs in the long-run.

 

Step 4: Do Your Homework & Shore Up Resources

When people retire from working, it’s common to think about shoring up financial and medical resources. Like: How much money will I have saved? How much will my social security retirement income be? Will my retirement from work include medical insurance? Which Medicare plan is right for me? And so on. 

 

The same kind of thought should go into thinking about what resources are needed when it comes to retiring from driving.

 

It’s pretty common to think “when my parents stop driving, they’ll put the money they have budgeted each month for their auto expenses toward transportation expenses”.

 

Unfortunately, this will not give you an accurate estimate of transportation needs and expenses, so it's best to do your homework ahead of time! So, ask your parents to think about where they go each month and how they’ll get there if they can no longer drive. 

 

They can do this by brainstorming transportation options. In my next video, I’ll be sharing a list of transportation options. 



Step 5: Try to See Your Aging Parent's Perspective!

On a daily basis, I hear from older adults that they are missing out on activities that they need or enjoy simply because they have no way to get there, they can't afford it, or because they "don't want to be a burden" on their family.

 

When older adults stop driving, they are at greater risk for isolation from friends and family, depression, cognitive decline, and more likely to be placed in a long-term care facility. Family members (like you) often step in to help by providing transportation or financial resources, which, can put stress on you. It’s a super stressful change in an older adults life and it will affect YOU!

 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the amount of work it takes to plan for driving retirement. This is a reasonable and common response. As overwhelming and stressful as it is for you, it is also overwhelming and terrifying to your parent. Try to see your emotional response as an opportunity to see just how difficult stopping driving can be for your aging parent. Take some time to get perspective on how much your aging parent may miss out on in life when they stop driving, and how much they may need your help, but be afraid to ask for fear of burdening you!

 

And this is exactly why planning for driving retirement is so important!  These difficult conversations can help to strengthen the bond you share- a bond that you'll each rely on more and more with the aging process.

 

Why is it so important to plan for driving retirement?

Having a driving retirement plan will help your aging parent to be independent even after they stop driving and  take some of the strain off of you in the long run!

 

Starting this driving retirement conversation with your aging parents can give you peace of mind that your parent is planning for all of the different types of resources that they're likely to need in their future. 

 

Not only do conversations about driving retirement help you and your parent prepare practically, they also help you and your parents prepare emotionally.

 

Today I shared that 78% of family caregivers provide transportation for loved ones, making it the most requested type of assistance by older adults.

 

Driving is a really big issue for many people with aging parents. I created a free Caring for Aging Parents Roadmap to Safe Driving to give you a guide for handling this super complicated situation. It includes the list of warning signs above, and so much more! Take a moment to download it now!

 

 

I’ll see you in the next video where I’ll talk with you about how to go about finding transportation options for your aging parents.

 

Lots of love to you and your family,

Regina

 

P.S. Share this blog with your friends who are caring for their aging parents. Because, nobody should have to do this caregiving-thing alone!


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I'm Dr. Regina Koepp!

I'm a Stanford trained, Board Certified Clinical Psychologist specializing with older adults and families! I'm an Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and a staff Psychologist at the Atlanta VA Health Care System. I'm a mom of two little kids and a daughter to aging parents.

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