Losing one’s independence is never easy. Think “Driving Miss Daisy.”

But for seniors, the decision of “to drive or not to drive” is one they know they must face sooner or later.


Losing one’s independence is never easy. Think “Driving Miss Daisy.”
But for seniors, the decision of “to drive or not to drive” is one they know they must face sooner or later.

 

For 84-year-old Barbara Tynes, that decision came “later” — three months ago after a doctor recommended it was time for her to turn in her car keys.

 

“I had a fall several years ago and it started bothering me again and I have double vision and when I ride, my head gets dizzy and I had to quit driving,” the Ardmore Village resident said. “I wasn’t worried about killing myself, but I thought, if I caused a wreck that killed a mother who had a bunch of little children, I couldn’t live with myself, so it wasn’t hard to give my car up.”

 

Put in that perspective, the decision seems an easy one. But it’s not always. Giving up the keys to one’s automobile means losing some independence and freedom, and can be a reminder that more limitations are in store as they age.

 

But Tynes said she has made the transition with relative ease.

 

“Was it difficult? In one sense yes, in one sense no,” she said. “I like to walk a lot and usually I walk four miles a day. I don’t miss my car, really. When I first gave my car to my daughter, I’d walk to Walmart. That was part of my walk.

 

“I’ve been kind of housebound about two months and I have a daughter that lives right down under the hill,” Tynes said. “She’s a nurse at the hospital and she comes by and has breakfast with me every day. The Village has a bus that you can ride and they take you downtown or wherever you need to go.”

 

Tynes has lived at Ardmore Village for seven years, moving here from Wilson. Her neighbors have become her extended family and are always looking out for her.

 

“I have neighbors that knock on my door (saying), ‘We’re going to the store. Do you need something?’ We’re a family. The whole village is like one family,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier. The hardest thing is that I went to church every Sunday, but I haven’t been able to go back to church.”

 

Betty Turner, 61, gave up her 1985 Chevy S-10 pickup two years ago in October because rheumatoid arthritis caused her much pain in her back and hands while she was driving. For her, it was “sooner” than she expected, but a necessary choice.

 

“I just chose to give up my pickup. It just made my back and my arms and hands sore and there was a couple with friends from Missouri who really needed a vehicle fast, and I decided to sell my pickup to them,” Turner said. “I rely on the Ardmore Village bus. Occasionally I go with SORTS. It’s an economical way to go — 75 cents one way. It’s cheaper than a gallon of gas. And you don’t have to get out and scrape ice and warm up your pickup before you go somewhere.”

 

Turner said her family was skeptical when she sold her vehicle, but said they are more than willing to take her anywhere she needs to go. She likes to walk and makes the rounds to various stores in the area when she can. And, even though she knows she made the right decision for herself, it’s still difficult from time to time.

 

“I still miss the freedom of getting out and going when I wanted to,” she said. “I think that’s just a personal thing. You have to know what’s going on in your life. It’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

 

At 83 years old, Charles Brown doesn’t forsee himself giving up driving anytime soon. Although, as a senior, he does realize there are limitations that older people have and knows they must compensate for them on the road.

 

“My wife keeps after me to do that. I try to drive with a little more care and stay within the speed limit,” he said. “I feel that my reactions are pretty normal. I do think it’s very good for folks in our age group to drive cautiously and I certainly tell myself that, also. I think seniors find it a real concern in their driving. The seniors that I visit with are very cautious in their driving.”

 

Brown, who is active with the AARP chapter, said the organization offers plenty of information for seniors on driving, reaction times, eyesight and other issues. There is also a driving course offered for seniors, which Brown took a few years ago, that helps highlight concerns for drivers. Those who complete the course also get a break on their automobile insurance.

 

The AARP Web site — www.AARP. org — offers a list of warning signs that indicate someone should begin to limit driving or to stop altogether:

 

• Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls.”

 

• Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.

 

• Getting lost.

 

• Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs and pavement markings.

 

• Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals.

 

• Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps.

 

• Experiencing road rage or having other drivers frequently honk at you.

 

• Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving.

 

• Having a hard time turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes.

 

• Receiving traffic tickets or “warnings” from traffic or law enforcement officers in the last year or two.

 

If anyone notices one or more of these cautionary signs in a loved one who is driving, they are encouraged to register him or her for a driver-improvement course, such as the classroom or online courses offered by the AARP Driver Safety Program.

 

The site also suggests that it is a good idea for seniors to talk to their doctors if they have concentration or memory problems or other physical symptoms that lessen their driving ability.