Dear Family Resource,
My 82-year-old widowed father recently agreed to give up driving and now he’s acting like his life is over. He hates asking for help and being dependent on others for rides, so he’s choosing to stay home all the time. He was never that active but he used to go to the library several times a week for films and lectures. He also walked around the mall and did his own grocery shopping. Now he just emails me a grocery list and when I suggest he come along for the ride he says, “What’s the point?” I’m concerned about his emotional state and that his inactivity will add to his existing health problems. Can you suggest a way to motivate him?
For seniors, giving up driving is one of the most difficult things to do. It sounds like your father led a fairly independent life so the loss of his car may signify to him the loss of independence, control over his own life, and may ultimately just make him feel old. While these feelings are painful, they are also common. I’m more concerned about his response to your invitations to leave the house. You are right to worry about your dad becoming isolated. He needs to see that there is life after driving. Why don’t you check to see what resources are available to your father with regard to transportation and activities? He may be eligible for taxi scrip (free vouchers for taxi service for seniors) or he can use the Access bus. There are also programs where volunteer seniors transport other seniors.
Another idea is to hire a companion. A companion can provide transportation, encourage your father to get involved in activities he enjoys, and pal around with him. Home care agencies such as Family Resource Home Care offer this type of service. We work hard to make a good match from the start, and we usually are successful, or we keep trying. Your dad may balk at first, but give it time and my guess is that he’ll come around. If he continues to mope and isolate himself at home, please think about taking him to see his primary physician. A thorough check-up should include a frank discussion of his emotional state-of-mind. It could be that medication will help lift him from his current depression. Best of luck.