Empathy The Key To Conversations with Senior Parents About Driving

Empathy The Key To Conversations

This is Part 1 of a four-part series.

Practice Empathy

Judi Bonilla’s parents passed away before they reached a stage at which their driving would be unsafe, so it’s interesting that her personal crusade is to help seniors give up the keys when it’s time. But Judi, an American gerontologist, had an awakening when she moved to New Zealand and had to learn to drive on the other (“wrong”) side of the road.

“Living that overseas experience made me attuned to what it was like to be an adult but to be infantilized because I didn’t have the skills, like driving on the other side of the road or learning how to use a new form of transportation,” she said. “I really saw what could happen when you were no longer able to drive safely…My life was turned upside-down.”

Judi seized control and took driving lessons to equip herself for her time behind the wheel in New Zealand. The experience got her thinking about how seniors are put in a similar position when they need to (or decide to) give up driving. To make that decision is to learn how to ride the local bus, apply for community transportation programs, or navigate new services…often all at once.

Shift the Conversation Dynamics

Judi encourages family members to reflect on experiences when they’ve felt in over their heads before talking to a parent about giving up the keys, and then to recognize that most of us will, someday, not be able to drive.

“Put yourself in the shoes of an adult parent, who’s raised a family, worked, lived their life…and then to have their life turned upside-down. For a lot of people, that’s what giving up driving does. If it was so easy to do, everyone would be doing it. However, we all have some experience getting out of our comfort zone.”

And what do we want when we’re out of our comfort zones? Someone to help us out. In Part 2, we’ll take advice from Judi about how to broach the subject and start the conversation with your parents about driving alternatives.

In Part 3, Judi will give us ideas on partnering with your parents to develop a personal transportation plan. We’ll also give you a transportation planning worksheet to get you going.

In Part 4, Judi will put this topic in a historical perspective, and make you feel part of a movement by engaging with your family on the subject.

About Amy Stice

Amy Stice is Co-Founder of Arrive Rides dispatches Lyft and Uber rides for people who don’t have smartphones. More at www.arriverides.com

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