My father was 96 when he died almost 10 years ago and he still had his driver's licence. He hadn't driven for the previous 18 months, but if he had a mind to, he could have.
We had the conversation two years previously - he was okay to drive. We sat in the optometrist's office when his eyes were assessed. It was touch and go. Dad was a careful driver, he valued his independence, he wanted to be able to go to the supermarket, the bank and to church and he was not ready to give up his licence.
He retained his licence with territory conditions, but he stopped driving of his own volition when he lost confidence in his safety on the road. He sold the car shortly after to confirm his decision.
If only all difficult conversations were as straightforward as that. Another family member was clearly annoyed when the doctor assessed that he was unfit to drive and his licence expired.
His main beef was that he would be unable to share the driving with his wife on their frequent road trips. His highly competent wife was quietly relieved by the doctor's decision.
Difficult conversations are part of your life as you get older. The gradual change from all knowing parents giving advice to adult children, to those kids advising you what to do, is part of the process.
The conversations cover a range of areas. The revision of wills, who gets what, who wants what, the powers of attorney, when to downsize, and do you want to be resuscitated?
This last one is a real challenge sharpened by the assisted dying referendum.
Medical people feel bound to preserve life unless specifically told not to.
The question, if you are seriously ill, and whether you want to be continually resuscitated with all the physical and mental trauma that involves, or is it time to be made comfortable, pain controlled, enjoying your remaining time with family and friends. A difficult conversation.
But when you get into a discussion about the nature of difficult conversations, the most common seems to be, when is it appropriate to give up driving?
Chronological age is just a number and there is no way we can judge someone's ability to drive based on that number.
If the American people can elect a new president at the age of 78, who are we to be able to arbitrarily judge a driver's capability based on age?
Older drivers are usually good drivers. Over 60 years' driving experience means you have coped with a lot of change and are able to react and adapt to changing road conditions.
Older drivers are usually more conservative, not needing to prove anything to their mates and are unlikely to speed or do anything outrageous on the road.
All drivers make mistakes though, and for older drivers, frailty and functional limitations can be more apparent.
Issues like eyesight and hearing loss, ability to judge speed and distance and reaction times as well as physical limitations like body and neck mobility can make the ability to judge blind spots more difficult.
For these situations the AA offers a free 1-hour refresher course for members over the age of 74.
This is a coaching session and not a test. It allows an independent person to provide advice about driving style and skill level which may have become hidebound after 60 years' driving.
But physical limitations are one thing, it is mental limitations and pigheadedness which can cause most grief.
It's when observations by family and friends about close calls, unexplained paint scratches and other drivers' reactions which may call for that difficult conversation.
It's important that this is a conversation, not coercion. It's an agreement, not a compulsion.
It's about preserving independence, self respect and a positive view of the future that the older driver has helped to create.
Difficult conversations need to be planned, constructive conversations with an agreed outcome that we can all be happy with.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.