Dear Annie: It makes me so sad to watch my family grow old. My grandfather has been in denial about his aging process, and now it's creeping up on him from behind. Growing up, I was always impressed by how youthful he was; well into his 70s, he was playing tennis every day, running, going on social outings and driving all over the place for various band rehearsals. He is now in his late 80s, and his body no longer lets him push the physical boundaries. However, that hasn't stopped him from pushing other boundaries. He is still driving, and I think it's dangerous.
Annie, he has been in several fender benders in the past few months, and though they were harmless enough to not deter him from continued outings, I feel that he has just been lucky. He often calls us lost, asking for directions from the road or not remembering where he's going. Adults in the family have tried to gently tell him he should not drive, but he won't hear it. It's also difficult to have this conversation without threatening his masculinity or coming off as disrespectful. I'm scared for him and for others on the road. How do you tell your hero that he can no longer perform the simplest of tasks? -- Granddad's Girl
Dear Granddad's Girl: Your granddad sounds like an amazing man. It's time for you to step in and be his hero. Speaking with him about driving could save his life or someone else's. Now that you know you have to have the conversation, the question is how.
If you are having growing concerns about his driving, chances are he has them, as well, though he might be reluctant to admit it. The key is to avoid making him feel defensive. Plan to have a quiet, calm chat with him at a time when he's not feeling stressed. As you approach the subject of driving, proceed slowly and gently. He will most likely voice his concerns about making appointments or outings. At that point in the conversation, you could offer to drive him to and from. And tell him he'd really be doing you a favor, because think of all the life lessons he could share in that valuable quality time.
Dear Annie: I work in a small office where almost everyone is in their 40s or 50s. There is one gentleman who is 79, "John Smith." When I started my job, I called him Mr. Smith because everyone but the owner did. One day, when I had multiple phone lines ringing, I called him John accidentally. I apologized, but he told me he wishes that everyone would call him John. It makes him feel old to be called Mr. Smith. The women there believe that because he is their dad's age, it is disrespectful to call him John. I feel torn because his preference is to be called John. What is your opinion? -- John's Co-worker
Dear John's Co-worker: John said he wishes everyone would call him by his first name. He can't get much clearer than that. I understand that your other co-workers mean to be courteous, but real respect means respecting others' preferences. Call him John.