Dear Donna:

My brother and I both went home to visit our parents in western Michigan over the Easter holiday. Our Dad contracted pneumonia this past winter and is slowly been getting back on his feet. What my brother and I weren’t aware of until this visit is how bad my mother’s driving has become. Before this illness sidelined him, Dad was the primary driver.

We aren’t sure if there are ways to adapt their car to make driving easier for my Mom or if it is just time for her to hang up the keys. She has arthritis in her spine and I think it is a big part of her struggle. She just isn’t very flexible. With my brother and I both living far away, transportation would be a real challenge if neither of them can drive any longer.

Are you aware of any resources that can help us?


Dear Anne:

Concerns about an aging parent’s safety behind the wheel are at the top of the list of questions we hear from adult children. Many feel like you do. They know their aging parent needs to be able to get to physician appointments, the grocery store and more, but aren’t quite sure how to assess if their older loved one is safe.

We know it can be difficult to objectively evaluate if a senior driver might be fine driving during non-rush hour times, if driving aids can be utilized to help them adapt their car to accommodate the physical changes created by aging or if it is time to stop driving altogether.

Here are links to a few online resources you and your brother may find to be of help in evaluating your mother’s fitness for driving:

  • Senior Driving: This site was created by AAA. It is rich with information that ranges from cars that are more senior-friendly to the AAA Interactive Driving Evaluation Online Test. The latter is a good tool to encourage both of your parents to take.
  • Michigan’s Guide for Aging Drivers and Their Families: This free publication was developed by the Michigan Department of Transportation. In it you will find resources covering a variety of topics including a self-assessment tool, tips for having a conversation with a senior about giving up driving, and medical problems that put drivers at higher risk for an accident.
  • Tools to Aid Older Drivers in Michigan: If you think a driving aid might make your mother safer behind the wheel, this article will be of interest. It shares suggestions such as a swivel seat cushion, mirror adapters, foot pedal extenders and more.
  • Exercises to Help Older Michigan Drivers: This article shares exercises developed by MIT Age Lab and The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence. They are designed to help improve older drivers’ range of motion and flexibility. Both abilities are necessary for safe driving.

I hope this information is helpful to your family, Anne!