O'Donnell Kerr Financial Planners
  • 20 August, 2015

Maintaining our seniors' independence in a self-service society

My mum is 85 and my step dad is 92.

The very scary thing for me is that my mum still has a driving license. But for you, the relief is it’s a modified license so she is not able to drive after a certain time in the day and can only drive within a small radius of her home in Tweed Heads.

Having a license is a wonderful source of independence for Mum and Stepdad, and at this stage allows them to travel to the shops, doctors and the local clubs to play the pokies.

I have not had to have that awkward conversation PK referred to in his blog “Driving Miss Daisy”, telling my mother she needs to stop driving for the sake of all the other drivers’ safety, who may be on the road at the same time as her.

But Mum, and admittedly it is not very often, does find that her level of independence can be compromised by the difficulty she faces when she needs to fill her car with fuel, pump up the tyres, top up the radiator or check the oil dip stick. Self-service service stations can be a very daunting for people of advancing years.

Mobility is restricted, and even a mild form of arthritis can cause issues with hands when it comes to holding a fuel pump or tyre pressure gauge. I very quickly surveyed the service stations in my area and only one was able to offer any form of assistance. Most were operated by one person who was not in a position to leave the console and pump fuel for anyone.

So what happens?

Mum is lucky if she travels more than 40kms in a week so every little while, I take her car and fill it with petrol, and check the tyres, oil, water, etc. I would think there are a lot of adult children who do exactly the same for their older parents.

But what about those seniors who do not have a relative, a friend or a neighbour who can help them with tasks like this? They are left to face the anguish and stress of refueling their car by themselves.

I watched with a degree of dismay and anger when I saw a younger driver lose their patience at a service station waiting for an elderly lady to fill her car and pay the operator. Yes, she did take a long while, she is not as agile as she used to be, was faced with four choices of fuel, a digital readout of litres and dollars, and had to walk in with a stick to pay for her fuel – have patience people.

Sometimes, for the elderly in our community, self-service is not a blessing but a chore. Spare a thought next time you see someone struggling at a servo with the pump, offer assistance. I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.

The Realise Your Dream blogs are written by Peter Kelly and Mark Teale. More information about the authors can be found here

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