Why Do Older Adults Resist Giving Up Their Car Keys?

You’ve had “the talk” with your aging parent about driving and that it’s time to give up the car keys. You’ve had “the talk” a few times and it always resulted in angry shouting with them accusing you of trying to control their lives or reminding you

that they are the parent and you are their child.


It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s just too stressful to think about that conversation again. But, you know it must be done.


Before you have the next discussion with your parent, it’s important that you understand why they’re so resistant to giving up driving.


The first thing to understand is that an older adult will be offended, defensive, or angry when they’re asked to stop driving because being able to drive a vehicle is a major symbol of independence and control. Remember, your aging parent is dealing with a loss of control in many areas of their life including health, and being asked to give up driving is a direct blow to their freedom of movement and a reminder to them that they are no longer able to completely care for themselves. This is a direct blow to their self-esteem.


Another reason they may be resistant is that they are unwilling to admit that anything is wrong. Fighting the aging process is common and sometimes it is simply a refusal to admit that the changes they are experiencing are real and affect the people around them. When in reality, they know what is happening and are too frightened or angry to deal with it. If this is the case, it may be a good time to contact a social worker or a geriatric care manager. Talk with someone who can help you to help your aging parent.


And finally, another reason your parent is resisting giving up the keys might be practicality. They are active and socialize regularly with a friend in weekly outings, daily lunches, or doctor and therapy appointments that get scheduled and rescheduled.


Now that you understand a bit of what your aging parent is feeling you can be more patient and understanding the next time you broach the subject with them. Be prepared for these objections, and more, by doing a bit of research, talking with friends who have had the same situation with their aging parents, or a social worker. Be prepared to listen fully to their concerns and to respond so they know you understand their concerns.