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Retiring from the Road

When the time comes to decide whether to voluntarily give up their drivers licenses, older Americans want the help of family members. This and other findings, along with information on making the transition to life without a drivers license, were published last summer in the guide We Need to Talk: Family Conversations with Older Drivers. The guide comes from researchers at the MIT AgeLab and the Hartford Financial Services Group insurance company, who spent two years studying the attitudes and driving habits of adults over 50.

Making the decision to stop driving can be devastating, says Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab and one of the directors of the project. Adults may go through a grieving process and can even fall into depression. Driving isnt about getting from point A to point B, he says. Its independence and freedom of the individual. Its a quality-of-life issue.

However, the researchers found that older adults are willing to talk about their driving skills if there have been changes in their health, if they have begun to voluntarily curtail their driving, or if they have had accidents or minor mishaps. Most importantly, they want to talk with people they trust, who have seen changes in their driving patterns, and who have their best interests at heart.

The guide offers a worksheet on warning signs for older drivers and an assessment of alternative transportation methods. Free copies are available through the AgeLab website at web.mit.edu/agelab.

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