My Aging Father Won’t Face up to His Declining Driving Ability

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I am a female company employee in my 40s. My father, who will turn 81 this year, looks younger, exercises regularly and is in good health. But he refuses to acknowledge that he is elderly.

It’s OK for him to forget little things. I only want him to be aware of how he drives, but he turns a deaf ear to such talk.

As my father gets older, his driving becomes more reckless. He passes other cars on expressways and aggressively makes right turns.

In addition, he doesn’t notice curbs and drives over them, and he fails to see cars driving alongside him when merging into a different lane and almost hits them. My father never would have made such mistakes when he was young.

I warn him to be more careful about his driving because his field of vision is getting narrower. However, he doesn’t take my advice. Instead, he gets upset and says that he shouldn’t be treated like an invalid.

I think my father also feels his age in many ways in his mind. However, he cannot admit it in front of other people. I think he props up his self-esteem by claiming that he is still young. Please give me your advice.

C, Nagano Prefecture

Dear Ms. C:

This story sounds painful for me, too. As I get older, my body doesn’t move as I wish. With increasing age, I stumble on flat surfaces and trip on stairs.

However, I cannot accept that such issues are due to my aging, and I find myself making excuses, such as that the road is poorly paved or that I was rushing up the stairs.

Even though I understand in my head that my abilities are declining due to my getting older, I cannot accept it from the bottom of my heart.

I think the same is probably true for your father. He is likely afraid that his abilities will decline as he ages.

Under such circumstances, when you point out his waning capabilities in a harsh manner, he pushes back at you as he feels as if he’s being denied as a person. I understand how your father feels.

Even so, if he is now making mistakes that he did not make when he was younger, I think it would be better for him to accept that reality and stop driving.

I hope you will continue conveying your family’s thoughts to your father calmly and without giving up, while letting him know that you think he is a strong person who can accept this reality.

Yutaka Ono, psychiatrist