“Never use your blinker, that just tips them off,” experienced L.A. drivers exhort. Sad but very true as it is, this cultural dysfunction also suggests an explanatory metaphor for another age-old dynamic: the challenge to maintain our independence as we grow older.
Like so. The desire to remain independent is close to the top of everyone’s concerns as we age. It is the reason many of us want to live forever in our own home and avoid older adult communities at all costs. We want desperately to be self-reliant and not dependent on others. The problem is, this determination (arguably, stubbornness) is counterintuitive. Just as with not using your turn indicator, your over-confidence and disregard puts you and others in jeopardy.
Self-reliance for many older adults is fallacious thinking. In reality, living alone at home requires the support of others – as in caregiving — to check-in regularly; to fix faucets and mow lawns; to bring over nutritious meals and check dates on everything in the fridge; and to worry, a lot, when you don’t answer the phone or get behind the wheel.
On the other hand, life in an older adult community can redefine independence. Given the right circumstances, there is assistance with healthcare and activities of daily living, personal safety, nutritious meals, convenient transportation, socialization and reassurances for family members.
Back to the metaphor. Not using a turn signal or blinker, similar to a dependent older adult trying to remain independent:
- Causes potential problems for those around you
- Forces others to accommodate you and pay extra attention to your desires
- Irritates others (who may be willing/trying to help)
In contrast, because driving, like life, is inherently unpredictable, using a blinker:
- Considers the safety of those around you
- Makes changes easier and less stressful; places trust in others
- Alerts others of your intentions; saves lives
Moving forward, particularly as we grow older, we must rethink “dependence” and learn to appreciate the mutual benefits of accepting help when needed (including when navigating L.A.’s freeways, which are treacherous at any age).