SENIOR POWER: Getting there’s half the fun…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday December 23, 2011 - 12:58:00 PM

Some states license older drivers but apply restrictions. Restriction numero uno on senior drivers is vision-related. It usually requires the driver to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses. Other common restrictions include using adequate support to ensure a proper driving position, no freeway driving, no driving without a right side mirror, no nighttime driving. A time of day restriction such as no driving during rush hour traffic is also possible. Only Illinois requires senior drivers to take a road test regularly. 

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), by the year 2020, 37 million Americans will be age 65+. And at least 90 percent of them will still be licensed to drive. The PBS NewsHour on August 25, 2011 aired an excerpt from the film, Old People Driving. (Flash Player and MP3 format, running time 7 minutes 10 seconds). Filmmaker- journalist Shaleece Haas looked at two elderly drivers, one her father, who are approaching the end of their driving years and facing the loss of independence that comes with turning over their keys.  

Driving does signify independence. To lose a license might mean one is getting old. Here are some perspectives and comments from Florida, Ohio, England, a Filipino American self-styled “expert”, and mine from California.  


Florida requires an eye test every six years for drivers age 80+. In 2009, statistics showed Florida drivers age 65 had a crash rate of 106.75 per 10,000 licensed drivers. By age 75, it was 98.27, and by age 85 it was 88.85. The same cannot be said for younger drivers. It is possible to make a confidential report to the state through a little-known Florida law. Form #72190 is on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) website. It is claimed that no penalty can be brought against anyone who provides such information to the state. I’m skeptical. Anyway, I don’t plan on going to Florida—too hot most of the year, snakes, alligators, tourists. 


A retired Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper has adapted the contract idea from the informal contracts sometimes recommended for teenage drivers and their families. His experience had involved elderly drivers, who, after age 75, had worse crash records than younger ones and who were also more vulnerable to injury and death. “Families don’t know what to do. Physicians sometimes don’t want to get involved. Courts’ hands are tied because of sentencing guidelines. It’s a hot potato.” In 2008, he launched a business, Keeping Us Safe, that markets responses to the problem. He sells a workbook for family members and older drivers to use together to assess drivers’ skills and consider alternatives. He trains people to offer one-on-one assessments (up to $350. for a three-hour individual session) that help older drivers decide whether they can safely continue driving. He says he has “certified” people in eight states who are offering assessments. 


The International Longevity Centre (London, England) is a think-tank impacting longevity, ageing and population change. Policy-makers are seeking to respond to the potential impact of population ageing on road safety, but the Centre favors support so far as possible of the existing norm of self-regulation . It urges self regulation and application of the nudge system. Its proposals would nudge (“push against gently”) individuals towards an effective form of self-regulation while recognizing that most older drivers are safe and responsible road users. 


“Why Elderly Drivers Are Dangerous. Old People Cause Car Wrecks” was the title of a 2008 article on the Yahoo! Contributor Network. The young writer declared “I love the elderly. I just think that they are not meant to be behind the wheel of a car… Maybe their licenses should just be invalidated. The fact is that people's senses deteriorate with age… Along with young adults aged 16-20, the elderly (70+) are responsible for the most accidents. It is debatable which group is worse as, mile per mile the young adults (16-20) are more likely to get in an accident, but studies have shown that wrecks caused by the older people are more likely to be deadly.” He advocated “… After a driver reaches 70, they should have to be re-examined each year they decide to continue driving. And after age 85, they should not be allowed to drive. Good transportation should be provided for the elderly after the age 70 even at a small cost.”  


A California driver age 70+ must renew her/his license in person every 5 years at a DMV office by taking vision and knowledge tests. You don't necessarily have to prove yourself behind the wheel (the “road test”). 

Making an appointment will reduce stress. Get the free annual DMV handbook. Memorize the instructions that involve numbers.  

For self-assessment, the DMV provides online practice sets of multiple-choice questions like those on the written test. I practice until I’ve mastered them, and I’ve always passed the written and eye tests imposed by my decrepitude.  

For example: When you are merging onto the freeway, you should be driving [check one] At or near the same speed as the traffic on the freeway. OR 5 to 10 MPH slower than the traffic on the freeway. OR The posted speed limit for traffic on the freeway. 



On December 21, 2011, a goodly crowd gathered in the North Berkeley Senior Center in anticipation of being processed for their free Senior Clipper Cards. If you missed this, go online to or Or phone Clipper Customer Service 877-878-8883.  

PBS NewsHour's partner, the Center for Investigative Reporting, conducted a year-long probe into one prominent hospital chain's bills to Medicare. California Watch reports that California-based Prime Healthcare Services buys financially troubled hospitals and turns them around. Last year, after a meeting with the new owner, Dr. Prem Reddy, Alvarado Hospital in San Diego experienced changes. For example, Reddy encouraged the physicians to stop documenting syncope (fainting or dizzy spell) and instead use the term autonomic nerve dysfunction, which reimburses at a higher rate. ("California Hospital Chain Eyed for Possibly Bilking Medicare for Millions," by Jeffrey Brown (US Public Broadcasting System _PBS Newshour, Dec. 19, 2011). In addition to the print transcript, video and audio transcripts (running time: 8 minutes, 35 seconds) are available at the site. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR. Be sure to confirm. Share by email news of future events that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred.  

Wednesday, Dec. 28. 1:30 P.M. East Bay Gray Panthers. 510-548-9696. Meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst.  

Wednesday, Dec. 28. 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Holiday lunch and selection discussion. 510-526-3720 x 16. 


Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. 1-2:30 P.M. Book Club members will read French Lessons by Ellen Sussman. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Free. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, Jan 3. 12 Noon. League of Women Voters. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, Jan. 4. 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course specifically designed for motorists age 50+. Taught in one-day. To qualify, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration is a must. There is a $12 per person fee for AARP members (AARP membership number required) and $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. Registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesday, Jan. 4. 12 noon. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 11, 18, 25. 

Wednesday, Jan 4. 6 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. Sign up in advance 

Thursday, Jan. 5. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 12, 19, 26. 

Monday, Jan. 9. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 16, 23 and 30. 

Monday, Jan 9. 6:30 P.M. “Castoffs” Knitting Group. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av.. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, Jan. 10. 1 P.M. Sugar Blues or What? Come be inspired, find ways to beat cravings, find specific tools to make healthier choices with Certified Health coach-Yoga teacher Neta O’Leary Sundberg. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, Jan. 10. 7 P.M. Poetry Night. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, Jan. 11. 12 noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. See also Jan. 18, 25.  

Thursday, Jan. 12. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the library. Berkeley Public Library south branch. 1901 Russell. 510- 981-6100. 


Thursday, Jan. 12. 7 P.M. Café Literario. Berkeley Public Library west branch. 1125 University. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. January title: La tabla de Flandes by Arturo Perez-Reverte. 510-981-6270. 

Friday, Jan. 13. 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. Creating Your Personal Learning Network. Learn to use the Internet and tools like Twitter and YouTube Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. Also Feb. 17. 

Wednesday, Jan. 18. 7 P.M. Adult Evening Book Group. Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Thursday, Jan. 19. 12 Noon. Learn what identity theft is, how to prevent it, and what you can do if you become a victim. This is one in a series of free financial education seminars taught by USE Credit Union. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.  

Thursday, Jan. 19. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library west branch. 1125 University 510-981-6270. See also Jan. 26. 

Sunday, Jan. 22. 1:30 P.M. Book Intro Film: Romeo and Juliet. Discussion group participants read the play at home and then gather at Berkeley’s Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street to view the film adaptation. Following the film, participants will discuss the play, the film and the adaptation process. Sponsored by the Friends of the Library, this free program offers adult and teen patrons the opportunity to discuss books, films and the art of adaptation. Participation is limited and registration is required. 510-981-6236. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 10:30 – 11:30 A.M. Learn to Create a YouTube Video Jeff Cambra, Alameda Currents producer, will share the basics of shooting a good video and how to get it uploaded to YouTube. No equipment or experience needed. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 12:30 P.M. YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch. Speaker’s Forum: Fariba Nawa’s Opium Nation. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Monday, Jan. 23. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee. 61 Arlington Av. Free. Book group meetings are usually held on the fourth Monday of every month in the library at 7:00 p.m. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. 510-524-3043.  

Tuesday, Jan. 24. 1 P.M. Doggie Communication 101. Does your dog pull you down the street? Not get enough exercise because you have mobility challenges? Growl or snap? Bark too much? Other annoying or worrisome behaviors? Bring your questions and join dog trainer Ruth Smiler. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesday, Jan. 25. 12:15-1 P.M. Michael Goldberg, guitar: Noon Concert Series.  

UCB Hertz Concert Hall. Sponsor: Department of Music Faculty recital.
Luis de Narvaez: Three Fantasias. Turina: Sevillana Bach: Suite in E Major (BWV 1006a). Ponce: Sonatina Meridional. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, Jan. 25. 1:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. 

Thursday, Jan. 26. 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation Class. Join William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion about “The Classical Romantic: Johannes Brahms.” Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Monday, Jan. 30. 7 P.M. Ellis Island Old World Folk Band Performance. 

Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Performance will include both Old World and New World repertoire emphasizing the transition that took place when Jews came to America at the beginning of the last century. Tunes from the Yiddish theater and radio featuring vocals made popular by the Barry Sisters, who were the queens of 1940s Yiddish Swing. As a pioneer in the revival of klezmer, lively and soulful Eastern European Jewish music, the Band has been honored with awards from Berkeley, Albany, and Alameda. Free. 510-524-3043 


Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. 1:3-3 P.M. Fred Setterberg will discuss his book, Lunch Bucket Paradise, a true-life novel about growing up in blue-collar suburbia in 1950s and 60s East Bay. Albany Library, 1247 Martin Avenue. Free. 510-526-3720. This is a program in the Alameda County Library’s Older Adults Services series; for dates and branches throughout the county, call 510-745-1491. 

Friday, Feb. 24. 9 A.M.-4 P.M. Annual convention. United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County. 510-729-0852.