My parents brought me to South Africa in 1947. My father was a South African but my mother was of British extraction. We settled in East London. Among the first tasks completed post our settling in period was for my mother to get her driving licence – “driving a car in the UK may be a luxury but in South Africa it is a necessity” my father commented.

In 2008, having almost traversed the whole of Southern Africa, my father surrendered his driving right and handed over the keys to his car. When he died I purchased the vehicle from the estate – a 2003 Mercedes Benz C250D with 23000km on the clock. At the time he lived on a farm some 25kmn outside George in the Western Cape.

When and, more appropriately, does this time to surrender our right to own and drive a car arrive? I believe my father was right when he decided that driving in South Africa is not a luxury. I drive most days and have friends much (18 years) who still drive and own a vehicle.

The decision is deeply personal and depends on a mixture of needs and desires. It is also associated with our situation and living arrangements:

  • If we live alone and cope with our own living and domestic arrangements then driving is essential for our continued wellbeing;
  • If we live in a retirement community and transport is provided, then the matter is moot and defined by our personal needs for space and flexibility! Living in a community can easily become claustrophobic?
  • If we live with family then the nature of the relationship determines our need to drive.

As we age we, generally, feel more limited in our ability to move about independently and start to make more use of facilities which assist us – from a walking stick to a motor car.

From the viewpoint of the younger generations, particularly our family and offspring, we become more frail and less able to maintain our independence. This encourages them to want to start making decisions on our behalf.

The decision to stop driving must be personal and made without encouragement form external sources. My father stopped driving after he disappeared from the farm without advising anybody and only returned to the farm after dark – it caused a mild panic!!!!

We need to be realistic and careful when considering the decision and always accept that our decision affects others as well as ourselves.  If you are capable of maintaining and servicing a motor vehicle properly, can drive and follow the rules of the road and need space and time to yourself then keep driving.

A dear friend, aged 83, set off with his wife on a 7,000km trip from Polokwane and back via Capetown, Port Elizabeth, East London and KZN. Not only did he and his wife complete the trip safely, they also spent some of the time camping on the roadside when they were not staying with friends/family.

I leave the decision to you and suggest you seek independent advice (from a doctor?) if you are not certain. As Nissan commented in their advertisement “Life’s a journey, enjoy the ride”