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I often come to visit my grandparents during the weekend and they will always come to fetch me at the train station in their car.

However, my grandpa (who is the one driving) is old and his vision has deteriorated a lot lately. He can still drive but I don't feel safe with him doing so. I would rather have both of them stay at home and walk to their house (it's not that far and it's also better for the environment).

So, I would like to ask my grandparents to not fetch me at the train station next time, but I'm afraid they will take it badly (as in: "hey, you are such a bad driver I'd rather walk").

So, is there a tactful way I can ask them to not come?

Notes and clarifications

  • My grandpa doesn't like driving very much. However, I don't want to risk hurting his feelings.

  • Walking to come to fetch me wouldn't be possible for my grandma, and my grandpa really doesn't like walking (and I don't want to cause them trouble since walking alone from the train station to their home is really not a big deal for me).

  • I don't consider lying to be an acceptable solution.

  • Some solutions suggest not to use the real reason as to why I don't want them to come. It's an option but I am even more interested in being able to say nicely to them "don't drive me because I don't trust your driving ability anymore" (when to talk about it, with who involve, etc.).

  • I consider driving to be a dangerous activity no matter what. And that driving with a bad vision is even worse. So I want to communicate something like "I don't want you to take risk driving (with your bad vision) when I could easily be walking"

  • I probably should have said this sooner, but I'm not really athletic and if I say to my grandparents "Don't come fetch me because I like walking", they will probably not believe me.

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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. If you're thinking of writing an answer instead, please take a look at our citation expectations first, to avoid any disappointments! :D – Tinkeringbell Jun 4 at 6:59
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    To make things clear: I don't consider lying and I am even more interested in means that your motive is also to put the message across that his driving style is 'dangerous'? – Jan Doggen Jun 4 at 13:17
  • @JanDoggen I consider driving to be a dangerous activity no matter what. And that driving with a bad vision is even worse. So I want to communicate something like "I don't want you to take risk driving (with your bad vision) when I could easily be walking". – Ælis Jun 4 at 13:25
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    Have you asked your parents for advice on the matter? What did they say about it? – jpmc26 Jun 4 at 16:37
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    What is your goal, here? Simply to be allowed to walk from the station to your grandparents' house, or to encourage your grandfather not to drive at all? If his eyesight is bad enough that he can't drive safely, then he can't drive safely: there's no such thing as driving that's "necessary", so you can do it even though it isn't safe. – David Richerby Jun 5 at 10:22
41

I have a very stressed grandmother who hardly lets me leave her house alone. I thought this would change once I get my driver license, but she still is uncomfortable with me going out alone. My grandma had her daughters encounter bad situations a couple of times and now is afraid every time one of her granddaughters is outside alone. Her motivation seems different from your grandparents', who seem to want to please you and not bother you with a walk. But what I found useful in such situations is to reassure them that you'll be both safe and not bothered doing so.

If you tackled the situation by saying driving for such short distances is not eco-friendly, you would take the risk of offending them, and they may feel judged on their choices. Remember, they're from a generation in which cars truly changed the way people used to live.

What I found helpful to alleviate my grandmother's anxiety and fear of bothering me is to say something along the lines of

Hey! I expect to be at your house at 05:30PM. I have my phone and will let you know if I'm running late. See you later!

I'm not saying at what time I expect to be at the station but rather at her house, which already indirectly states my will of walking. I also reassure her that I'm equipped in case anything happens. Now, if they insist, you may reply

That's really nice of you to offer. But I really would prefer to use this opportunity to walk a bit.

You're not saying you're afraid of their driving skills, you say you would rather walk without disclosing the reasons why or using a white lie (if it is one indeed) by saying you like walking.

If they still insist, I am unsure what you could do next. I would accept that they fetch me for this time, and later on politely expressing your concerns about their driving skills without expressing your judgements. I would make it about their own safety and not yours, so it would be great if you could approach the topic not right after they fetch you at the station, but at a time far enough after they fetched you. This should be done in person rather than on the phone to maximize your chances of them understanding your concerns. But I never had to express such concerns to a relative, so if everything abovementioned fails, I am unsure I could help much further.

20

I went through something similar with my parents before they passed away. I was pretty convinced it wasn't safe for my father to drive me anymore. I just ended up saying that I wasn't going to ride with him anymore. Period. End of discussion. I didn't go into detail about how I felt about his driving, and he knew that in general I liked to walk places, so it may not have been that annoying to him.

But bottom line is that we're talking about lives, both yours and your grandparents. If you think it's not safe to ride with your grandfather, just say you'd prefer to walk, as I did. You do not have to give a reason if you don't want to embarrass or hurt him. But keeping quiet because you're afraid you will hurt his feelings is really not an option.

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    This is a decent option. But there has to be a nicer way to say it too... – Cullub Jun 3 at 18:42
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    @Cullub I think simply saying "please don't drive over, I'd prefer to walk" without discussing driving ability is about the best that can be done. – DaveG Jun 3 at 19:20
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    Having known someone in high school who was killed by an elderly driver who had his license revoked but continued to drive anyway, I'd like to correct one of your statements: "we're talking about lives, yours, your grandparents, and everyone around you" – conman Jun 3 at 19:41
  • It's really no laughing matter. latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-jul-17-me-smcrash17-story.html – AffableAmbler Jun 6 at 20:05
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Does someone in your family need a car?

When my Grandpa's health started deteriorating but there still wasn't a clear cut drive/no drive line, no one in the family wanted to hurt his feelings yet we all had our fears that an accident might happen.

In a very relaxed atmosphere during a family gathering my uncle asked my grandpa whether he could do without his car for a few months, since his daughter just came back from a long stay abroad and would need a temporary car before she can settle down and buy her own.

That way grandpa could still get the warm fuzzy feeling of beinga great help and got a nice and non-conflic way of getting out of the situation. It was stated as a temporary thing, but after two or three months grandpa got used to not driving and when asked about getting his car back, he smiled and asked whether perhaps someone else didn't need a temp car this time.

In the end everyone was happy and I got a free car. I didn't strictly need it, you know...

9

How about "Hey, I need to get my 10,000 steps!" This approach is truthful (since you said you like to walk) though it does avoid having to confront the question of your grandpa's driving competence. If the latter is really your prime concern, then this approach won't work.

I've used this technique as a way to get my nieces more active. Their mom is overweight and tends to drive even short distances. My nieces would happily walk with me and I could get past their mom's offer to drive.

(Note that while the original 10,000 steps was pure marketing, a recent study published in JAMA looked at 17,000 women of average age 72 and found that 4400 steps doubled their remaining longevity vs those that only went 2700 steps. There was no additional benefit beyond 7500 steps so 4400 seems a good target.)

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    Hi David! Welcome to IPS. We expect answers to be backed up with either literature reference (when applicable) or personal experience. Could you please edit your answer to explain in which context you used that technique and how did the people involved react? Feel free to check these guidelines for citation expectations and reach us if you need help. Thanks in advance, and have a great time among us! – avazula Jun 4 at 5:45
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    That might work well with people who buy into the "step-wrist-band" hype, but will fall flat with people who have no idea what you are talking about. This hype seems primarily prevalent in the US, so you might point out the background to those people who are not used to it. No idea where OP is based and whether OP's grandparents would know about it. – Frank Hopkins Jun 4 at 10:59
  • Hey David! Thanks for editing in the explanation/backup. If I understand correctly, you've used this successfully to avoid the mom driving you too? And she wasn't upset? – Tinkeringbell Jun 4 at 20:53
  • @FrankHopkins: this is quite a common thing in Europe as well. My father (82 yo) tells me all the time he is at 14000 or so, when I am at 4000. I blame the bike for that, it only counts 10 steps after I have been riding for 15 km... – WoJ Jun 5 at 13:48
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    @Tinkeringbell: No, their mom (my sister) wasn't upset at all. My company actually provides a financial incentive to meet certain fitness goals in the form of a rebate on employee health insurance payments. They've experimented with various implementations including one where you got $1 for every day that you hit 10,000 steps. It's amusing how easily I could divert the discussion from "driving" to "getting my $1"! – David H Olson Jun 5 at 21:15
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I "let" my grandfather drive (he only really went around a block, never on a main road, to get to the store) until he got lost in my neighborhood and resolved on his own that driving was now not possible. I did this because he was incredibly resistant to me having an opinion about his capabilities (he lived with me at the time, as my grandmother had just passed and he did not want to be alone). I do not believe there is a good way to tell someone this without hurting their feelings. Tact or no tact, you will be hurting them. It is hard to hear and accept these limitations in life.

In your case, if you feel he is a danger, then gently tell him this. Say something like "Grandpa, i noticed that you (missed a stop sign, narrowly escaped an accident, didn't see a pedestrian, etc) and I'm concerned about you driving". But this would mean that he shouldn't drive at all, not just skip picking you up.

However, until you think he is really a danger, consider letting him do it. You have offered to make it "more convenient" for him and he has refused, it sounds like several times. My grandparents are all gone now, and through my grandfather and interactions with my in-laws (who only drive in daylight hours and very cautiously these days) I have discovered that they do it because they are dying to see you. That is their highlight, picking you up at that train. They probably look forward to it every single time you are going to be arriving, even if it's every day. Let them have this. It's good for all of you. The time will come when he really can't and that time may be soon, but until then - it's kind of a gift you are giving him, really, if it helps to look at it from that purview.

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Speaking straight is often the simplest and many people prefer getting spoken to in this way. The trick to being tactful without resorting to euphemisms, double-talk or lying is to highlight the positive aspects of the other person's behaviour and motivation.

Keep in mind that your comments about their motivation are opinion and you should always allow them an opportunity to confirm or modify them.

Hello grandpa, I really appreciate your looking out for me and offering me a ride from the train every time I come to visit. It shows me you are concerned with my wellbeing and safety and is very considerate. Thank You.

However, I'm concerned that driving might be getting difficult for you and I don't want to be a burden. I also really enjoy walking because it makes me feel like I'm doing my part to protect the environment. From now on, I'd prefer to just walk from the train station.

Optionally:

I always have my cell phone, so if I'm ever in any danger, or the weather is very poor, I will call for help.

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    Hi eisenpony! Please take a look at our citation guidelines. We expect every answer on this site to be more than a mere suggestion of a possible solution, more than your opinion on what should be done. Can you explain if you had any success yourself following the approach you suggest, under what circumstances you used this approach and give us some information on what the outcome of doing as you suggest here was? Or back your claims up with research that supports the claims your making? Thank you! – Tinkeringbell Jun 4 at 6:47
  • The "poor weather" comment sounds like it might encourage a concerned grandparent to come out in the slightest drizzle; which would only further impair their driving! – Azor Ahai Jun 4 at 17:08
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    "I'm concerned that driving might be getting difficult for you and I don't want to be a burden" - I don't know, any grandparent I've ever met would respond to this with a jolly, "No, it's no bother, you're not a burden at all!" – colmde Jun 11 at 7:50
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I was hesitant to post this answer, because it doesn't directly answer OP's original question. However, it sounds like it is not safe for the grandfather to drive. Suspecting that, and not doing anything, I think would make me responsible if I just ignored it and something then happens - either to grandpa or someone else.


If you don't feel safe driving with your grandfather, are you sure he should be driving at all? Would he not also be a danger to himself as well as other people in traffic?

Though that seems like a harder talk to have, maybe it is actually easier because it is not about you feeling unsafe specifically, but about safety in general, his own included.

You might start by putting an emphasis on how he has always been a skilled driver (if that is the case) and willing to drive you, but now that his eyesight is getting worse you are concerned for his and others' safety when he is driving. Stress that you really don't want him to get hurt.

I think this is pretty tactful :) The phrasing would be best left to someone who knows the grandfather, I think, and also merged into a conversation (not at the time where the offer to come fetch OP was made, though) - but could be on the lines of:

Grandpa, you have always been willing to come pick me up and I know that you always was a good driver. However, I'm worried that you don't see too well anymore and that something might happen to you. Do you think maybe it is time to stop driving?


If you think that is the way to go, I also think it is an advantage that the reason is deteriorating eyesight - that is probably easier to accept than, for instance, having gotten old and slow (of mind and body).

Before taking this route, you may want to talk it over with other people in your family to make sure the concern is valid.

My own father drives a lot, but due to health issues was not allowed to drive for a 3 month period a couple of years ago. That was extremely hard on him, because he felt that his freedom was taken away. It may be good preparation if you find out in advance when your grandfather is driving and how those situations could be taken care of if he can't drive. Be aware that some solutions may not be options to him. My father, for instance, was terrified at the thought of going by bus. While he was not allowed to drive, my mother would ride the bus to go shop by herself or my father would walk several kilometers to the store - and then I would sometimes drive by them after work to take my mom shopping for bigger items.

This situation was slightly different because my father was ill and that added an extra dimension because my parents were worried about that - also it was by order from the doctor, so it would have been illegal for him to drive until they were sure he was well again. However, both my parents repeatedly expressed their gratitude that I drove them when they needed without being asked. Being there for them and helping to deal with the new reality was key. So as mentioned, it would be a great help, if you have suggestions for how to solve the situations that are currently solved by your grandfather driving. You could continue the conversation from above with:

I know you drive for X,Y,Z and I've been thinking, that X can be done by ... and Y by ...

  • Hi JustBrowsing! Welcome to IPS, thank you for taking the time to share some of your experience. But can you edit your answer to highlight the parts about tactfully asking the grandfather to not come and fetch OP? Did you tell your dad something similar to what you're suggesting in your third paragraph, the focusing on safety, when your dad couldn't drive? Can you describe your dads reaction to that? – Tinkeringbell Jun 4 at 11:05
  • @Tinkeringbell Thank you for the feedback. I have added some edits to try to address your points – JustBrowsing Jun 4 at 13:17
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For some years now, maybe three or four of them, I strictly forbade my teenage children to ride in my father-in-law's car. I drew the line when my FIL complained about his poor eyesight which caused him to lose balance going up or down the stairs, as he was seeing things double and blurry. Nobody is riding in his car anymore.

But at the same time I told him I'd drive him anywhere he needs to be, even on vacations. We do our shopping together each week, so this is in fact very comfortable for him as I am also bringing his shopping into his kitchen - he does not have to carry anything (we're living in the same house, while in separate flats). It took these three or four years for him to finally say goodbye to his car, which he offered us for use from now on.

It took a LOT of discussions for this. I always stayed calm, pointed out his troubles with his eyes, and reminded him that no one was to drive with him on the wheel in his car. I told no lies or coated my words with sugar. I knew exactly what his troubles were - having coffee breaks together helps with that - so he had no way to play them down.

The upside for him - and downside for me - is he still drives his electric bike. But at least he can't drive faster than 25 km/h, drives only short ways and mostly on the biking lanes, so he's out of heavy traffic's way. And considering he drove a big camping van, I'd say safety is way better off with him using that comparably lightweight and slow electric bike.

So my advice is, stay firm, talk again and again with him, show him alternatives - if you want to address the principle of the thing. If not, a simple "no, thanks, I prefer to walk right now" would suffice.

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There are two issues here.

  1. You are concerned that your grandpa is no longer safe to drive.

  2. You like walking from the train to the house.

If you separate the issues they may become easier to deal with.

The first one is more serious, and you can enlist the help of other family members. If you are worried about your grandpa driving to the train station to fetch you, you are probably also worried about him driving to the store or to his friend's house. You and your family should look into what options there are in your area, maybe an organization gives rides to seniors or there is a multi ride ticket available with a taxi company.

Realize that giving up a car is a huge loss of independence for seniors. Nobody enjoys the prospect of being old, frail, and dependent on others for basic needs.

The second issue is most easily dealt with using a polite lie, like "I've been sitting on the train for an hour and I feel better for a chance to stretch my legs."

In imagining your conversation with your grandpa I am replaying conversations I've had with my mother over her concern about me walking three blocks on side streets through a quiet safe suburban neighborhood between my sister's house and the senior center she lives in. Well-meaning but wrong.

(And yes my mother still drives to the store and we would be happier if she didn't. It's not an easy issue to handle.)

protected by Tinkeringbell Jun 4 at 11:05

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