Ageism shows up in many aspects of seniors lives, including condescension, arbitrary rules of retirement and a general attitude of treating seniors as less than equal.

Unfortunately, ageism also manifests itself in BC driving rules for seniors. When BC drivers reach age 80, they are mandated to have a medical examination to determine their fitness to drive. According to the letter I received as I approached my 80th birthday, the full cost of the examination is born by the individual.

For many seniors, a drivers license is their only hope of maintaining an active lifestyle. Public transit, including Handy Dart, does not give many the ability to get to medical appointments or recreational and cultural activities in short, to maintain their independence. Many seniors are not well off financially and the cost of the medical exam (some people told me they paid as much as $200.00 for the exam) is itself a hardship.

Failing the exam results in more time and expense. They must take a cognitive exam on a touch screen, which confuses and intimidates many. Apprehension and confusion do not help to get favourable test results. There is little evidence to support claims of effectiveness of the test. If they fail the cognitive test, they must take a new driving test. They are allowed three tries to pass the driving test.

These rules are based on an outmoded view of seniors. CARP (A New Vision of Aging for Canada) views many of these people as zoomers boomers with zip. They are not content to lounge in their rocking chairs until infirmity puts them in wheelchairs or sends them to an early grave. Zoomers travel extensively, participate in sports and  other  recreational  programs, and contribute to their local communities in many ways. They are the largest group of volunteers, contributing millions of hours of unpaid work to sports organizations, charities, community and health organizations.

Some seniors shouldnt be driving; some younger people shouldnt be driving either. But there must be a more humane way to determine those still fit to drive.
As of April 21st, Ontarios new rules will weed out unfit drivers while treating seniors with respect and dignity. The new process will include:
1. A vision test.
2. A drivers record review.
3. A short group education session.
4. Two, brief, non-computerized in-class cognitive screening  assessments.
5. If necessary, a road test or medical exam.

There will be no additional cost; in the event of failure, any step in the process can be repeated numerous times without additional cost.

Compare this humane process with BCs onerous process including a test conducted by a private company, Drive Able, at considerable cost to the senior. People who have failed this test tell me they are unable to find out what they did wrong or why they failed.

Its time for BC to adopt a new vision of aging and to treat seniors with respect and dignity.

CARP fights ageism. We have finally achieved the elimination of mandatory retirement in all provinces and with the federal government. The BC driving rules are another example of ageism we must fight against until we win.

Bruce Bird


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