Soon, our currentÂ driver’s license will lapse. We wonâ€™t renew a document weâ€™ve had, in our wallet,Â for decades now.. Earlier, we let our international drivers license also peter out. Thatâ€™s a marker others before us have Â trod.
We didnâ€™tÂ recogonize it then. ButÂ this last phase in a rite of passage came in form of a question we lobbed to the cheerful man who walked in: â€œYou Â are — what?â€ â€œYour new driver, sir,â€ Aniceto Camposo answered.. â€œYour son says you should not drive anymore. â€
We did Â not Â give up our car keys. They were gently taken away from us. Our children hired Aniceto. â€œThe difference between a good and bad driver is 40Â years too many on the road,â€ they explained.
â€œFamilies and lawmakers face the dilemma of whether — or when — to take away loloâ€™s Â car keys.”Â Studies conclude that drivers, in their 60s, are among the safest, the Economist reports. Those aged 70 are a fraction of Â the population. Yet, this sliver accounts for 17 percent of pedestrian deaths. From 80s onward, death rates were nine times greater than for those under 70.
Long before Henry Ford assembled the first buggy, the Psalmist wrote: â€œSeventy is the sum of our years. Eighty if we are strong.â€ But taking hands off the wheel, for good, took time to sink in. Decades of habit resisted the shift.
We drove all five kids to grade school through clogged Manila traffic. In Bangkok, we taught the five how to drive. WeÂ ferriedÂ Â them toÂ collegesÂ Â in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
Former president Bill Clinton dubs us â€œjunior-senior.â€ Associated Press uses the phrase â€œnear elderly.â€ My surviving classmates prefer to be called â€œmature.â€ Indeed, our locks are grey and we use bifocals. We fumble for names. Please speak a little louder, we ask.
That brought back memories of our lapsed internationalÂ drivers license at a despedida party forÂ Asian journalists in a resort outside Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia.Â Alcohol, notably the traditionalÂ â€œairagâ€ â€“ made from fermented mareâ€™s milk — Â flowed freely. â€œDonâ€™t worry,â€ our official guide told me.â€Iâ€™ll be at your door at seven sharp tomorrow to bring you to the airport.”
At seven on the dot, he was at the door of our â€œgerâ€, the traditional Mongolian tent home. Bleary-eyed, he thrust the car keys to me. â€œI drive and weâ€™ll end in the Tuul riverâ€, which is 18 miles southwest of Ulan Bator.Â “Drive with an expired license and youâ€™ll catch your flight to Beijing, then Bangkok.â€
Reluctantly, we stretched out our hands for the car key. As we left the ger side road and slidÂ into the highway, a panaroma ofÂ a vast land,Â which is one of the worldâ€™s least densely populated countries, appeared. There are overÂ 2.8 million Mongolians thinly spread over 1.5 million square kilometers.
( Alongside Bolivia, Mongolia lodged at slot 108, among 187 countries, in human development measured by UN in 2013.Â Life expectancy rose from 57 in 1980 to almost 69 in 2012. But poverty remains widespread. )
What came to mind, however, on this drive was the song from the 1970 film â€œOn A Clear Day, You Can SeeÂ Forever.â€Â That starredÂ Barbra Streisand,Â Yves Montand, andÂ Jack Nicholson. â€œMiss Streisand, as a 22-year-old New Yorker whoseÂ YiddishÂ intonations are so thick they sound like a speech defect, defines innocence by sitting with her knees knocked together and her feet spread far apart, a mannerism she may have picked up fromÂ Mary Pickford,â€ one of the reviews noted.Â In the event, we caught our flight. How our guide drove backÂ we never learned.
Today, more youngsters today have ignition keys to more horsepower than our generation did. â€œTeenagers mature, gain experience and put risky behavior behind them,â€ the Economist adds. “( Far too many) of the elderly do not realize how much skill, judgment and reaction time theyâ€™ve lost. They donâ€™t factor in deteriorating vision and lesser stamina.
As years pile up, the brain begins to shrink, blood flow slackens. Ability to process thoughts-â€”â€œcognitive functionâ€ is the medical term–slows down. After retirement, two out of three, begin to experience â€œsenior momentsâ€: tendency to misplace things, a word on the tip of the tongue which never comes, etc. Memory lapses become frequent.
Cognitive skills allow one to steer smoothly or ease in between fast-moving cars. Our grand-daughter just graduatedÂ from University of California Los Angeles. Youngsters like her can hit brakes within â€œ0.7 second for something expected to 1.5 seconds for a total surprise.â€ Not her Lolo.
Three factors interlock in accidents involving elderly drivers: (a) poor judgement, notably, when turning across oncoming traffic (b) drifting out of lane; and Â (c) inability to react fast to cope with surprises.
â€œIt takes 8,460 bolts to assemble a car—Â Â and one nut to scatter them all over the roadâ€â€¦So, when should you let your licenses lapse? There are no clear-cut guidelines.
Ask your doctor. Many in the grey mop crowd are â€œmaintenance medicationâ€ for chronic ailments. Some drugs have ingredients that further dull motor skills and whittle reaction times.
Families can best judge it’s time for an older driver to slide out from behind the wheel, says University of Massachusetts gerontology professor Elizabeth Dugan. â€œBut many wait until an accident.â€
NowÂ a sophmore at UCLA in Los Angeles, ourÂ grandson Adrian is applying for his first driverâ€™s license. HisÂ lolo willÂ paste up this last license as a souvenir–Â if we can remember where we left our scrapbook ####. (By JuanÂ L. Â Mercado)