Seniors. When is it is time to give up driving? For most seniors, who are people too, the answer is: never. Some research indicates the loss of a licence is like a death to a senior.
Perhaps in the city there are options for seniors for transportation. In most small towns, there are few to none.
In Ponoka, we have a couple of cab companies and the wheelchair van.
Friends can help, if they are considerably younger than the one giving up the car and keys.
Otherwise, you just end up with two old foggies in the same boat. Places to go and no reasonable way to get there.
A friend who works with seniors related the story of how a woman at Rimoka Lodge in Ponoka wanted to visit a friend in the Ponoka Care Centre less than a block away. Since the elderly woman couldn’t walk well, she took a cab. It cost her $14 for the two-way, one-block trip.
You can’t blame the cab drivers. They have to make a living.
Some seniors take a cab to go shopping. You call the cab, then wait between five minutes to half an hour — and how the time ticks on when you are elderly!
Suddenly the cab arrives and hurry, hurry they want you in the car and on the go. You get dropped off at the grocery store, possibly with your walker if it fits in the cab, and then you get to do your rounds.
Once finished, you phone a cab and . . . wait. Maybe five minutes. Maybe half an hour. But at 85 years old, you are exhausted.
The plastic chair is painful on your backside and cold drafts hit you every minute the door opens as shoppers stream in. Still, you fight to do your own shopping, no matter how miniscule your purchases may be — because you get to see other people.
You are free to choose. You’re with active people. You feel human again among humans.
Now the cab arrives and hurry, hurry those old aching bones into the cab.
You get home with your purchases and are dropped off at the pavement where you struggle with your stuff and the steps, the lock and the door.
Now you are wiped out from the waiting, the cost and shopping and the drafts.
Next time you call a delivery service. That also costs money, but at least you ache less.
You miss the social aspect but you realize it isn’t worth the extra $15 to $20. And although you’d like to go visit a friend across town now, you don’t have the money.
Consequently, if you have a car in your garage and a valid driver’s licence, you will drive next time — macular degeneration, failing hearing or weak arms and failing legs and all.
Because there is no comparable option to driving a car.
Your family will nod happily every time you go for a medical to renew your licence. Your family doctor will not force you to go for the DriveABLE test to check you out on a simulator. Why cruelly force a patient he or she respects to shell out a couple of hundred bucks just to be denied the right to drive?
Meantime, your family will be too far away or busy working to drive you around.
Your family has advice: “Stay home Mom. Order in! Most places deliver.”
Now a prisoner in your own home, you decide to drive anyway. You hide the scrapes on the car as you misjudge the garage entryway. Invisible people walk out of the shadows of trees alongside the road as the contrast ratio in your eyes decline.
The oncoming car on Hwy 53 seems far enough away as you turn left onto Hwy 2A and anyway the guy stopped for you, and even waved!
But he seemed to just have one finger on that hand, poor thing.
Maybe someday someone will write a letter to Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure to report your dangerous driving. You’ll get a mystery letter demanding that you pass those tests you’ve been avoiding.
Even then, as long as your licence is in hand — if you have the keys you will probably drive. What have you got to lose? What other indignities can be heaped upon you?
What other options do you have? Virtually none.
With one in four Canadians turning in 65 by 2025, we’ve got to address those lack of options. Now.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.