Williamsburg, Va. - With some 10,000 adults turning 65 each day in the U.S., a growing number of families of older adults seek assurance that their loved ones can continue to drive safely. While many older adults remain perfectly safe to drive with or without modifications, others find that the time has come to either limit or retire from driving. But making decisions that might affect personal independence can be difficult.
Thanks to Riverside Health System's Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health (CEALH), older adults can receive an expert evaluation of their driving skills for just $50 from now until September 30, 2019. Assessments are regularly priced at $350.
The reduced cost of the evaluation is underwritten by Grand Driver, an initiative of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services with funding supplied by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Riverside CEALH's Jane D. McKinney Driver Rehabilitation Program specializes in helping individuals become safe and capable drivers following injury or illness, as well as those experiencing a change in abilities as a result of the natural aging process.
"Unfortunately, the physical changes that happen quite naturally as we age can also impact our ability to still safely operate a car," said G. Richard Jackson, Executive Director for Riverside CEALH. "At the same time, there's probably nothing more important for older adults to remain independent in our community than to operate a motor vehicle. Older adults driving is at the same time a very sensitive and very critical issue."
That's where the Jane D. McKinney Driver Rehabilitation Program comes in. The program is named for a generous donor who believed in the mission to keep the community and its aging population safe on the roads. CEALH's program is among a small group of specialized programs in Virginia that provides this service.
Family members, primary care physicians, law enforcement and community advocates refer patients to the program for evaluation which takes about 90 minutes to complete with a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. It includes collecting data from family, physicians and then undergoing a series of tests to evaluate memory, vision, upper body strength and reaction time.
Many of the tests are done on pen and paper, but each person is also evaluated behind the wheel and on the road.
The series of tests are critical to a true evaluation on someone's ability to drive, Jackson said. "Even the DMV is not good at evaluating this," Jackson said. "If you go into the DMV to renew your license as an older adult, they will do an eye exam and send you on your way. But there is so much more to it. Our driving and rehabilitation program is comprehensive."
Roughly half of the drivers who complete the CEALH evaluation receive a recommendation to amend their driving, including not to drive at night, on the interstate, or more than 10 miles from home. The other half learn they are no longer able to safely remain behind the wheel and are offered suggestions on alternative forms of transportation and local services that can help them maintain their mobility and independence.