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No More Driving, What Are the Alternatives? – Elderly Drivers In NJ [SERIES]

This is one part of a week-long, five-part series during which Kelly Waldron delves into the controversial issue of senior driving. From recognizing the warning signs to having difficult conversations to taking away the keys and finding alternate transportation, it’s an important issue that plagues many families across New Jersey, one of which will share their very personal story.

You’ve observed your elderly loved one over time, you’ve recognized some of the warning signs, you’ve had the difficult discussion and together, you’ve both decided that it’s time for that person to give up their car keys. So, now what?

David McNew, Getty Images

“There are many different alternatives to driving. First, you can contact your local Office on Aging to look into those alternatives. There are many places that offer home delivery of prescriptions, groceries and even meals. There may be hair dressers and physicians that make home visits,” said Terri Wilson, Caregiver Initiative Specialist with the State Division of Aging Services. “Of course, there is always public transportation, ride share and paratransit programs for seniors. Many senior communities have transportation of their own. Of course, there is always family, neighbors and friends as well.”

“There is a great deal to look into and there are many volunteers who are willing to help,” said Wilson. “The loss of driving not only can make a person feel less independent, but it can also make them feel like they may lose their friends as a result. By using many of these alternate transportation programs, it can also be a new way to meet people and to be social, so you want to encourage that. Basically, that person has to just learn how to become a passenger. It doesn’t necessarily change their relationship with their friends, it’s just a way for them to be safe.”

“We teach a number of courses for seniors at AARP and one of those courses includes alternatives to driving,” said Lavelle Jones, Deputy State Coordinator for the AARP New Jersey Driver Safety Program. “Because we’re such a driver-focused society, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how we’re going to get around if we don’t drive. So, it’s one of the exercises we take our class participants through. It’s incredible how many different alternatives there are when you just think about it.”

“One of the best ways to get around is by walking, especially for those who live in senior communities. There are other services as well. For example, a lot of retailers these days, because of the competitive nature in this economy, will come and pick you up and take you to their store or they’ll deliver products to you. Many local governments offer free transportation for seniors,” said Jones. “It’s always best to have a plan in advance, so that you have the alternatives ready in the event you need them.”

For more information on courses offered by the AARP, call 800-227-7669 or visit their website.

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