DID YOU KNOW? MAY IS OLDER AMERICANS MONTH.
My wife and I attended an AARP “Smart Driving” class today and it was quite useful. This AARP course is the nation’s “first and largest refresher course designed specifically for older drivers” (from the Welcome letter in the Guidebook included with the course). The course is based on these premises:
- Our abilities are changing.
- Our cars are changing.
- Our roads are changing.
- Our state laws are changing.
As a senior who has been driving for sixty years, I thought the class may be a bit juvenile and unnecessary, but was I in for a surprise. The four specific areas of change that I just mentioned seem to sneak up on us gradually, just as physical deterioration happens to our bodies, gradually and insidiously, without our noticing.
Our abilities are changing as we age. Our eyesight diminishes and our hearing declines. Our reaction times slow as does our body’s physical ability to respond to much of the stress involved with driving. We tire more easily and are affected by the side effects of many of the prescription medications, as well as many of the over the counter items we self-medicate with. Many of those prescription and non-prescription medications have interactions that can cause dangerous reactions and can reduce our driving ability.
Our cars are changing too. My wife just bought a new car, a simple Toyota Camry without a lot of bells and whistles — she thought. But even without a lot of the bells and whistles, the car has so many new features, many in the communications area, that she is having to take a lot of time and effort to learn how to use them.
Car designers are really looking after the needs of older drivers, and that effort is to be commended. For example, there is a device developed by the MIT Age Lab, called the “Agnes Suit”, a “garment” that looks like an old time deep sea divers suit. Designers wear it to simulate the many limitations that affect seniors in all aspects of life, including driving. This includes range of motion limitations, arthritis and the ability to use joints, posture, speed of movement and other physical limitations of seniors. These considerations include getting in and out of a car, driver positioning, ability to flex limbs, and other physical aspects of driving. Car makers are recognizing the needs of seniors.
Our roads are changing, too. They are becoming far more complex with parallel lanes, massive interchanges, new toll lanes, different signage, and seemingly constant road construction and maintenance no matter where we travel.
And finally traffic laws are always in a constant state of flux. Many of those laws have to do with road markings, lane changes, accommodations for bicycle traffic and the like. It’s hard to keep up.
I was happily surprised to see an entire segment of the class dedicated to exercises an older adult should be doing to stay flexible enough to twist, bend, and swivel the neck and body. This is important for an older driver to be able to keep up with what is going on around him or her as they navigate today’s roadways.
All in all, it is an interesting and useful eight hour, two day course. I strongly urge you let go of your ego for eight hours and find a way to take the course. It’s given all over the country. Did I mention that some insurance companies offer a reduced rate to those who have completed the course? And at $15, It’s a bargain. Go to the AARP website to learn more.
Thank you for reading.
The Come Alive Project is a platform for spreading a positive message about Health, Fitness, Personal Energy and a Positive Lifestyle for active senior men and women.
Bob McMillan is a blogger, speaker and seminar leader about mind, body and other aspects of positive living for seniors. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.