Last Saturday, on the way to the symphony, we stopped to pick up a lady to join us. I know, just the fact that we go to the symphony makes me feel old! Anyway, what I didn’t realize is that Dixie no longer drives. This was surprising to me, as Dixie is a vivacious woman living in a neighborhood, not too far from my house. She does not fit my pre-conceived ideas of one living without a car.
Giving up the car keys can be one of the most life changing events we have to face as we age. Most people dread the day they have to give up their car keys. We think our cars give us independence and freedom. As children, we dread the day we need to have the discussion with our parents about giving up their car keys, and even more so, we dread the day we will have to give up the keys to our cars.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We live in a world that has become easier to navigate without a car, and lots of people, young and old, are actually choosing to sell their cars and live a life without owning a car. Granted, this is easier done in some locations than others, but it is not the end of the world as we know it.
As Dixie and I chatted, I found out that she had to give up driving due to some health issues about four years ago. She had been prescribed a steroid and ended up in the hospital and in a care facility for two and a half months. Dixie still suffers memory issues to this day. It was not an easy decision, but she did not have a choice. It obviously changed her life, but Dixie has not lost her zeal for life, or her independence. She still volunteers on a regular basis, gets to church every week, goes to the grocery store, goes on walks, attends tai chi classes and lives a productive life. Dixie also enjoys quilting and spends a lot of time reading. She treasures her weekly outings to the library.
In talking with Dixie, I asked her what life was like without driving. I was curious, as most people I know give up their car keys when they move into a retirement or assisted living community. Dixie actually still lives in her home. Due to her upbeat attitude, what she said surprised me. She said “Don’t get me wrong, it’s hell not being able to drive!” But, she quickly realized she needed an attitude change, and made choices to live as best she could under the circumstances.
She lost her husband a number of years ago and was living alone. The secret for her has been having a family member come live with her and do most of her driving. Not everyone has children who are willing to so drastically alter their lives for their Mom. Not only does her son live with her, he also does most of the cooking. She also relies on her wonderful neighbors and friends to take her to various activities, and errands.
Dixie and I had a nice visit talking about her life and how she functions on a day to day basis. It is refreshing to meet people who make the most of the situation they find themselves in and continue to enjoy life. The more we talked, the more impressed I became with her attitude and her adaptability. She does not own a computer or a smart phone. None of the luxuries of today’s electronic age help her in her independence. She does not rely on Uber, Facebook, e-mail, etc. etc. Instead, she enjoys time with people, something that is becoming a lost art, in the electronic age we find ourselves in.
Of course, if she did have a computer and/or a smart phone, there would be a lot more resources available to her. But Dixie is happy with the life she has built for herself in this new season of life. Except for the limitations of cooking and driving, Dixie is blessed to be able to live life to it’s fullest with the help of her family and friends.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation to Dixie? Have you had to give up the car keys and feel like you are losing your independence? Do you need an attitude change about not driving? Do not despair, you do have choices. Please reach out to someone you trust. A friend, neighbor or family member. Explore your interests and try new hobbies. Figure out what your needs are and brainstorm creative ways to meet them. There are resources out there if you look for them. Most local libraries offer books by mail services. Don’t give up.
Do you know someone who can’t drive? How can you best support them? Dixie appreciates her friends who write letters and call to talk. She also appreciates rides and just spending time with people. Book club is another opportunity to catch up with friends. Visitors are always welcome.
Dixie’s last words of advice: “The sooner you can accept your new reality, the faster you can move forward and live”. I’d say this applies to whatever your reality is today. Go and live my friends.