Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:36:00 PM

The California Senior Legislature is hosting a Senior Rally Day at the State Capitol on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. The theme is “Make seniors a priority in 2015 and beyond—reinvest in the Older Californians Act.” For more information, go to To register, Janice Bailey at 916/552-8056; by email:  


In California you must renew your driver’s license every 5 years after reaching age seventy. This includes the written test (sometimes referred to as the legal test) that in the past consisted of a pencil and paper test. Samples of the questions format are at the DMV website and in the manual, available free in numerous languages! At the DMV you may be confronted with a new computerized set-up. You can request a paper and pencil test. My advice is, do so! The DMV where I go is prepared to do this but doesn’t advertise it.  

The ability to drive can be central to a person’s identity as well as an important expression of independence. Think groceries, meds and doctor(s). 

When the elderly become unable to drive, due to age or deteriorating health, their emotional well-being can decline as a result of being unable to maintain social relationships or work schedules involving travel by car.  

Yikes. Dr. Atul Gawande considers very old persons to be the highest-risk drivers on the road. The risk of a fatal car crash with a driver who is 85 or older is more than three times higher than it is with a teenage driver. (Being mortal; Medicine and what matters in the end.) 

On the other hand, Dr. Marian E. Betz of the University of Colorado School of Medicine stresses that, on the whole, older drivers are generally safe drivers and do not pose a menace to the community around them. “Driving is key for mobility and independence, and driving cessation has been linked to depression and even early death…Doctors are often called on to help make decisions about driving, because they understand a person’s medical conditions and medications and how these affect driving,” but many older adults prefer to hear advice from family, friends or driving specialists. She suggests that while there’s no set age when a person becomes unsafe, 65 might be a good target to start routine conversations. (Journal of Injury Prevention, online January 23, 2015.)  

Most of the assumptions often associated with senior citizenship are apparent in this kind of “research.” They include: every senior citizen has a family, a spouse and driver’s license; senior citizens socialize, travel by car, and work or volunteer.  

Many people expect, or hope, that the family doctor will intervene to help take away the car keys from an unsafe older driver, but doctors and clinic staff say these are difficult conversations to have and they need more resources. Comprehensive driving evaluations including both in-office tests and a behind-the-wheel session on the road are available at some VA centers. 


At the end of 2013, approximately 4.24 million licensed drivers in Japan were age 75 or older. The total number of fatal road accidents across Japan has decreased every year, while the proportion caused by drivers aged 75 and older has consistently risen. According to the National Police Agency, the figure climbed from 5.5% in 2003 to 11.9% in 2013. 

Under current Japanese law, a driver’s license is suspended or revoked if the motorist is diagnosed with dementia. Drivers age 75 or older are required to undergo cognitive tests when renewing their driver’s license every three years and are classified into three groups: those suspected of dementia, those with limited cognitive impairment, and those with no signs of cognitive problems. Now a bill aims to toughen dementia checks on elderly Japanese drivers. Under the proposed amendment to the Road Traffic Law, those suspected of having symptoms of dementia would be required to submit a clean bill of health from a physician.  


"Federal nursing home ratings need consumer input," by John Hale (Des Moines [Iowa] Register, March 31, 2015). 

"Though Most Americans Are Wired, Seniors Lack Internet Access In U.S.," by Robert Siegel (US National Public Radio All Things Considered, March 30, 2015).  


Read Tom Hunt’s page 1 news analysis, “Recent Development Misses Berkeley's Real Housing Needs,” in April 4’s Planet. Hunt suggests covering all new housing under rent control and eliminating vacancy decontrol. A data review confirms that developers have built way too much expensive housing and much too little housing for those with moderate and below income(s), like senior citizens: in the last 8 years, 84% of the new housing in Berkeley was for households with greater than $92,566 yearly income.  

New America Media has added "Growing Older, Getting Poorer" to its series. Recent articles about Oakland seniors include: Oakland’s Chinatown Seniors Hope to Age in Place; Nonprofits Help Keep Roofs Over Oakland Elders Heads; Homelessness Growing for Oakland Seniors; Affordable Housing Unaffordable for Many Low-Income Oakland Seniors; and The Toll on Oakland Seniors. All are by Laura McCamy and can be accessed from: 

"In end-of-life debate on Sen(ator). Bill Manning's bill, words matter," by Jason Hoppin (Santa Cruz Sentinel, April 7, 2015). 

"Seniors get in the act with skits to educate about scammers," by Nita Lelyveld (Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2015).  

"2016 election battle over California pensions begins early," by Alexei Koseff (Sacramento Bee, April 10, 2015). 


"Rejecting CalPERS' (California Public Employees' Retirement System) lead, Contra Costa (County) pension board ends spiking opportunities for new employees," by Daniel Borenstein (Contra Costa Times, April 10, 2015). Note: this is a CCT Opinion piece. 

"Hospice volunteers provide end-of-life companionship as more age at home," by Sammy Caiola (Sacramento Bee, April 11, 2015).