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Helping elderly dad give up the car keys

Updated: June 10, 2012 8:04AM

Q . My dad is in his mid-80s and only drives a couple of times a week, but I think it might be time to ask him for the keys. What’s the best way to handle this?

A. Many states now require senior drivers to show up in person for license renewals; Illinois and New Hampshire require older drivers to take a road test.

But who do you think is more likely to get into a car accident — an 18-year-old heading to the corner store or a 65-year-old driving to the mall? Hint: Pop music is a’blaring.

Kids are 33 percent more dangerous drivers than seniors. That’s because older folks make accommodations for aging eyes and ears by not driving at night or in bad weather, and by making three rights to avoid one left (Dr. Mike does that now) and not ignoring stoplights anymore (Dr. Oz).

Most seniors know when it’s time to stop driving. So you may be surprised when you have the “turn in your keys” talk with your dad. Make sure you have alternative ways for him to feel (and stay) independent: Local services can provide rides when he needs them, but set up a list of friends and family he can call when he wants to go to the store, the bank or a ballgame. And remember, the guy who taught you to drive may need time to adjust to this change in his life, so give him the understanding he needs, just like he gave you.

Q. I’ve heard that kids who spend too much time on Facebook have a hard time developing social skills and get depressed. I’ve also heard that it can lead to diabetes and heart attacks. How can I protect my 12-year-old?

A. People can get swamped by social media and spend too many hours a day on the computer (or TV). Just two hours a day sitting in front of either one ups your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20 percent and heart disease by 15 percent.

But the unique problem with Facebook is that you think you are interacting socially with others when you are not. This can lead to what psychiatrists call desensitization, a kind of dulling of your ability to interact with people right in front of you. Add that to regular ol’ teenage alienation, and you have a formula for unhappiness.

You’ve asked the question at just the right age for your child. While about 46 percent of online 12-year-olds go to social-networking sites, that number jumps to 62 percent at age 14. This is your window of opportunity to establish guidelines (and rules).

Help your child stay active by planning family outdoor activities on a regular basis; encourage him or her to sign up for sports and social groups at school; and limit computer time to homework PLUS no more than 30 minutes of Facebook or other social sites a day. But our best advice is what Aunt Tillie used to say to her bookworm nephew (wonder who that was): “Honey, you really need to get out more.”

King Features Syndicate

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