The act of driving is synonymous with independence. Being able to determine where you want to go and when you want to go there increases the choices available to you because it eliminates the need to rely on someone else.
A few years ago, I gained a deeper understanding of the profound impact driving makes on a person’s life when I was faced with two stark realities within the same week. I was handing over car keys to my 16-year-old daughter while at the same time taking that freedom away from my own mother.
For mom, this meant that her everyday life would change. She was no longer able to go anywhere unless she asked for help. And she was not the type to ask for help.
The decision to give up driving can impact a person’s health: giving up the keys increases the chance of social isolation, depression, and other cognitive impairments.
Even though my mom’s routine changed, it did not mean that her needs did. While many grocery stores now offer home delivery, it is often not designed with older adults in mind. For instance, my mom is not computer savvy, so placing her order online is not an option, nor is she able to lift heavy bags of groceries from her front porch to her kitchen counter. When I tried to overcome these barriers, I faced roadblocks because businesses often had not considered the needs of seniors.
My mother wanted to stay in her home, as most seniors do, but navigating services and coordinating appropriate support is challenging. I live in another state, and am juggling my own home life and career. It seemed to me that this process did not need to be so hard, especially since seniors are the fastest growing population segment.
Between 2020 and 2040, the number of individuals over the age of 85 will more than double in Minnesota (Source: Minnesota State Demographer Census Data, 2016 Projections). Also, by 2021, 75 percent of older adults receiving publicly funded, long-term services and supports will be served in their own homes and communities (Source: Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2017).
Investing in services that enable older adults to remain independent, while providing peace of mind to caregivers, will help make communities stronger and more self-sufficient.
My experience and passion led me to serve as the Executive Director of Help At Your Door, a nonprofit focused on helping seniors maintain their independence and remain connected to their communities.
Offering grocery assistance, transportation, and home support services helps to ensure that aging loved ones and neighbors have what they need to remain in their homes and continue their life-long routines.