The Driving Dilemma: When It’s Time To Give Up The Car

When we passed our first driver’s test at the ripe old age of 16, we couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. Having a car and driving meant just one thing: freedom. Unfortunately, as we age, many seniors find that although their overall health is good, their reflexes, vision and ability to drive declines. Giving up driving can be a bitter pill to swallow, but here are a few facts that might make it just a bit easier.

The cost of vehicle ownership, particularly in California, is quite high, even if you own your car outright and are making no loan payments. Typically, studies show that over time you can expect to pay about $8,000 per year for your automobile. This includes the cost of insurance, registration, repairs and maintenance and gasoline.

Assuming that the gasoline you buy is around $3.50 per gallon and you fill up your car once per week, this adds up to nearly $3,000 per year just for gasoline alone. Keep in mind that in many areas of Southern California gasoline can be more than $4 per gallon. Car insurance costs in California average out at about $1,500 per year. Add on the cost of registration, oil changes, car washes and repairs and that’s a great deal of money.

For many older Americans, our bodies are not always conducive to driving. Arthritis and mobility issues can make driving difficult and even painful. While carmakers certainly have managed to make automobiles safer and more fuel efficient, there haven’t been many adjustments to help those with mobility issues. In addition, many people also must take medication that can affect your ability to drive safely.

The most important question is safety, not only your own safety but the safety of others on the road. Studies show that teenagers and older adults are the highest risk groups when it comes to accidents. While it is difficult to imagine not driving, for many older adults this is simply the safest option. After all, you would never wish to hurt anyone else, but unfortunately this is all too common a story.

Of course, you are probably thinking about how you will be able to get around without a car. Some cities have excellent public transportation, but it is definitely a bit more challenging in Southern California. San Diego County does have bus services and trolley service, and all trolleys and buses are equipped with lifts if you have a wheelchair. San Diego MTS offers reduced fares for anyone aged 60 or older as well as disabled individuals.

Taxi services can be a good option once in awhile, but there are also quite a few private organizations in San Diego County that offer low-cost or free transportation for seniors. This can be a great way to make it to doctor’s appointments or run errands when family members can’t help out. Check out the website for the County of San Diego Heath and Human Services Agency for senior ride programs available in your specific area.

If you are the child of an older adult, this can be a tricky topic to bring up and it can help to gain some perspective prior to broaching the subject. Spend a week or two getting around without using your vehicle so that you can truly get a glimpse of the changes in store for your parent.

Make a commitment to your parent to provide transportation and team up with family members to provide transportation. Be sure your parent knows that you are happy to help whenever you can, dropping them off at a friend’s home, driving them to an appointment or taking a trek to the grocery store to stock up.

Another way to ensure that you have access to transportation is by opting to move into a retirement community or assisted living facility. These types of facilities usually offer some level of transportation, particularly for doctor visits, but also if you simply want to get out for awhile.

Living in a San Diego assisted living facility also reduces the amount of chores and responsibilities you have in general. For instance, there is full meal and snack service, housekeeping and laundry, so you rarely need to head to the store to buy food and supplies. Assisted living facilities also provide plenty of social activities and excursions, which can keep you from feeling isolated, alone or bored.

If you are interested in looking into an assisted living community in San Diego, La Mesa, Carlsbad, Encinitas or anywhere in San Diego County, contact us at Care Placement. We are a free service that matches older adults to all types of eldercare facilities in Southern California.

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