We didnâ€™tÂ give up our car keys. They were gently taken away from us. OurÂ childrenÂ hired Aniceto.Â â€œThe difference between a good and bad driver is about 30 years too many on the roadâ€, they later explained.
â€œEvery day, familiesÂ and lawmakers face the dilemma of whether â€“ or when â€“ to take away grandpa’s car keys”,Â Fox News notes. People now live longer. Thereâ€™s been â€œa silver-hair tsunamiâ€ ofÂ elderly drivers. (Some) end up with more than dented fenders.”
Weâ€™ve seen compellingÂ highway safety studies. Drivers in their 60s are among the safer, theÂ EconomistÂ reports. Drivers aged 70 and over are 9 percent of US population. Yet, this sliver was linked to 17 percentÂ 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 toÂ sink in.Â Decades of habit resisted.
We drove allÂ five kids toÂ grade school thru clogged Manila traffic.Â Weâ€™dÂ ferry themÂ toÂ collegesÂ in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachussets.Â In our Rome UN posting, we were family chauffeur inÂ vacations fromÂ Cork in Ireland to Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
On spaciousÂ streets behindÂ the Tobacco Monopoly compoundÂ in Bangkok, we taughtÂ theÂ five how to drive.Â â€œDonâ€™t forget our allowance,â€ theyâ€™dÂ prod us atÂ the end ofÂ nerve-wrackingÂ tutorials.Â They took over the wheel; for spells, after getting their licenses.
Former-president Bill Clinton dubs usÂ â€œjunior-senior.â€ Associated Press first used the phrase â€œnear elderly.â€Â MyÂ surviving classmates, however,Â prefer to be called â€œmatureâ€Â or the non-committal â€œa certain age.â€
Our locks are greyÂ andÂ we useÂ bifocals. Increasingly, we fumble for names.Â PleaseÂ speak a little louder? WeÂ often ask.
AÂ doctor bumpedÂ intoÂ his 86-year old patient strollingÂ with a sultry lady, weâ€™re told. AtÂ the clinic, heÂ asked about the woman. â€œJustÂ following your orders Docâ€, the octogenarian replied. â€œYou said, get a hot mama and be cheerful.â€ The physician protested:Â â€œI said no such thing. All I told you was: â€˜YouÂ haveÂ a heart murmur. Be careful.â€™â€
Today, moreÂ youngstersÂ have ignition keys to more horsepower than our generation did.Â â€œFortunately, teenagers mature, gain experience and put their risky behavior behind themâ€, the EconomistÂ adds. That contrastsÂ with the elderly. (Far too many) do not realize how much skill, judgment and reaction time theyâ€™veÂ lost. They donâ€™tÂ factor inÂ deteriorating vision and lesser stamina.
As years slip by, the brain begins to shrinkÂ andÂ blood flow slackens. Ability to process thoughts â€” â€œcognitive functionâ€™ is the medical termÂ â€“ slows down.Â After retirement, two out of three, begin toÂ experienceÂ â€œsenior momentsâ€. Â These canÂ range from tendency to misplace things orÂ a word on the tip of the tongue which never comes.
Memory lapsesÂ become more frequent. â€œTime for lunch.â€ StudentsÂ call out as the professor walks. â€œI alreadyÂ had something to eat,â€ he replies. â€œOh, no. WasÂ thatÂ the specimen for this afternoonâ€™s lecture.â€
IfÂ cognitive impairment is mild, oneÂ usually retains capacity to learn, read andÂ speak. ButÂ attention span deteriorates along withÂ short-term memory. In some, this may lead toÂ Alzheimerâ€™s or dementia.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â .
Cognitive skills allow a driver to steer smoothly or ease in between fast-movingÂ cars. Reaction time is critical. Â Youngsters like our grand-daughter, a seniorÂ atÂ University of California Los Angeles, can hit brakes Â withinÂ â€œ 0.7 second Â for something expected to 1.5 seconds for a total surpriseâ€ Â Not Â her Lolo..
Three factors interlock in accidents involving elderlyÂ drivers. (a) poor judgment, speciallyÂ whenÂ turning across oncoming traffic (b) drifting out of lane. â€œIf everything is comingÂ your way, donâ€™t shooÂ them off. Youâ€™re probablyÂ barreling in the wrong laneâ€ (c) inability to reactÂ fast to cope with unexpected events.
â€œIt takes 8,460 bolts to assemble a carÂ â€“ and one nut to scatter them all over the roadâ€â€¦So, when should you hand over your car keys?Â There are no clear-cut guidelines.
â€œI am approaching 80,â€ Bob Hope onceÂ cracked. â€œIâ€™m not sure from what direction. All I can tell you is theyâ€™ve cancelled my blood type.â€
AskÂ yourÂ doctor. Many of the grey mopÂ crowd is often on â€œmaintenance medicationâ€ for chronic ailments. Some drugs may have ingredients thatÂ further dull motor skills andÂ whittle down reaction times
FamiliesÂ can bestÂ judge it’s time for an older driver to slide out from behind the wheel, saysÂ University of Massachusetts gerontology professor Elizabeth Dugan. â€œBut many wait until an accident.â€
â€œConfusion on familiar routes, frequent dents, being on the receiving end ofÂ increasing honksÂ are signs it’s timeÂ give up the keys, American Automotive Association says. Â ThatÂ doesÂ notÂ mean losing independence as long asÂ a support system in place.
There is need for tougher driver screening for oldies.Â How did they let us â€“ and others in a similarÂ fix â€“ get away with that?
We willÂ paste up this last license as a souvenir â€“Â if we can remember where we left our scrapbook, that is. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
ByÂ JuanÂ L.Â Mercado