‘Elderly’ drivers seek freedom from DMV ageism May 8, 2007Posted by C.A.R.D in age limit driving, Card, Citizens Against Discrimination, Discriminate, discrimination against the Elderly, DMV, DMV discrimination, driving discrimination.
Once an adult, twice a child, the old wives’ wit goes. If you live long enough, you might be unfortunate enough to leave this world the way you entered it: needing diapers.
Most senior citizens do their best to maintain as much of their freedom and dignity as they can until that unhappy helpless moment arrives. They don’t need meddlesome legislators to drive them to dependence prematurely.
Besides, what constitutes “elderly” anyway? Recently I was forced to ponder this burning baby boomer’s question and decided that it really boils down to a matter of perception.
I heard a report of “an elderly woman’s” body being found after a fire. She was 60. Sixty is elderly? Sure, if you are a 20-something television copywriter; not if you are a 50-something columnist.
Still, young marketers in this youthful, health-conscious era try to sell us on an “active adult” image in which 60 is the new 40, 50 is the new 30 and so on. Then reality bites, usually when you can’t get your achy bones out of bed in the morning. Or you figure out on your own that it’s best to avoid driving at the height of rush hour. Age, they wistfully argue, is nothing but a number.
But that magic senior number, set at 75 by the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles, is just plain arbitrary.
Onerous laws that present unnecessary hurdles, such as the rigorous requirements and tests placed on D.C. seniors to renew their driver’s licenses, often do more harm than the good that is intended. And the randomly imposed number constitutes discriminatory ageism on its face.
A woman at her 75th birthday party may look younger and healthier than a woman 20 years her junior. You read about these lively people, watch them and envy some of them every day.
Take Barbara Hillary, a 75-year-old cancer survivor from Arverne, N.Y., who last month became the first black woman recorded to reach the North Pole. “She’s a headstrong woman. You don’t tell her no about too many things,” the adventure tour guide told the Associated Press.
I have a petite 72-year-old aunt, Constance Yvonne, who you’d never guess is a day over 50. I took her on a business trip with me last month, and she put me to shame. She hopped out of bed at 7 a.m. to follow her daily television exercise guru, Denise Austin, while I was still bumping into furniture foraging for coffee.
She volunteers to drive to the nursing home to visit her sisters — always before 3 p.m. to beat the evening rush hour — because “I want to keep doing things I want to do for as long as I can, and I don’t want to be a burden on anybody.”
It is nearly impossible to guess the ages of the patients at what they now call “a rehabilitation center” judging by their appearances, pain and illness, or varying degrees of motor skills. You’d need to read their charts or give appropriate tests to be sure.