Ageing, driving and keeping a sense of humour

While on the shopping tour fundraiser for the new building Saturday 20 October 2012, I was fortunate enough to come across two books, the first is “The Book of Senior Moments” by Shelley Klein, and the second “Seriously Senior Moments” by Geoff Tibballs. The books reminded me that we all have funny quirks and foibles, some of which are attributed to ageing. This month’s column looks at the lighter side of ageing, citing some of the articles from these two books, as well as the seriousness of relinquishing one’s driver’s licence.

Story Number 1

“A sixty-five-year-old man had just driven on to the motorway when his car phone rang. Answering it, he found his wife on the other end of the line. ‘Bert,’ she said urgently, ‘Be careful. I’ve just heard on the news that there’s a car driving the wrong way up the motorway.’ ‘Hell,’ he replied. ‘It’s not just one – there are hundreds of them!’

Mixed with the humour comes a touch of sadness and grief, when we realize it is no longer safe for us to drive. This is one of the hardest decisions for us and our families to make. It is seen as loss of independence and the ability to help others. I remember when my distant aunt lost her licence at the age of 92. Following three car accidents in the space of six months, no one would insure her; hence she could not legally drive. Similar to the accidents we hear about on the news, her first one was in the supermarket car park where she muddled the accelerator and brake pedals, and reversed into the car behind her. Fortunately no one was injured. The second was a similar pedal muddling, at the golf course car park. Fortunately, once again, no one was injured. The third was at a crossroad intersection, where the pedal muddling resulted in a collision with another car, which was on her right and had right of way. This resulted in injury but fortunately, no one was killed.

For my aunt it was, she said “a death sentence… I drive my friends to Healesville; take them to golf and their hair appointments; that is, the few who are left. What will we all do if I can’t drive them?” This was a very difficult time for her, and at one stage she told me she would just drive without insurance and “risk it”. After a lot of explaining the risk to others; asking her “How would you feel if you caused an accident and seriously injured or killed someone?” other strategies were put into place to ensure they all made it to golf, hairdressing and Healesville, maintaining their independence and at the same time, keeping them and the rest of us safe.

Story number 2

“Two elderly women, Bessie and Eva, are out driving in a car and neither can see over the dashboard. Bessie is at the wheel and Eva is in the passenger seat. As they are cruising along, the car arrives at an intersection. The traffic light is red but Bessie drives straight through. Eva thinks to herself, ‘I must be losing it, I could have sworn we just went through a red light.’ After a few more minutes they come to another intersection. The light is again set to red and again they drive straight through. This time, Eva is almost sure the light was red, but she is also concerned that she might be seeing things. Looking nervously over at her companion, she decides to pay very close attention at the next set of lights. When the car approaches the next intersection the light is definitely red and Bessie drives straight through it for a third time. Turning to her friend, Eva says, ‘Bessie! Do you know we just ran through three red lights in a row? You could have killed us.’ Bessie turns to her companion and aks, ‘Oh dear, am I driving?’”

Story Number 3 (driving isn’t always about cars)

“Three retired gentlemen, each with bad hearing, are playing golf on a blustery afternoon. One remarks to the other, ’Windy, isn’t it?’ ‘No,’ the second man replies, ‘it’s Thursday.’ And the third man chimes in, ‘So am I. There’s a pub just around the corner.’”

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further discussion about any aspect of residential aged care. As I have said in previous columns, going into aged care residential services is not a death sentence; it is just a change of address. With the Eden Alternative Philosophy it is also a journey of change to resident focussed care, a journey of living and life.