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home : opinion : opinion May 26, 2016

9/26/2013 6:00:00 AM
Column: Being old does not mean it's all your fault

Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

Growing old isn't for sissies.

The older I get - and I'm only 55, for the record - the more I realize that's the truth. Already, I've made concessions to a body whose bones now ache when it snows or the temperature dips below 40 degrees. It's the reason I left the Chicago area and its six-month-long blustery winters to move to the warmer, sunnier climes of Arizona. I just can't take the cold anymore.

Growing old comes with its own set of problems. There's often crankiness brought on by health issues, from failing eyesight and hearing to stiff limbs and a host of ailments that seem to manifest themselves about the time Medicare kicks in. The fear of nursing homes and assisted living - or even hospice - rears its ugly head from time to time, as if to remind the elderly of what awaits them.

Sometimes there's confusion, brought on by a world that's technologically expanding by leaps and bounds. Learning to use a television remote is challenging enough without adding Facebook, Instagram, smart phones and smart watches. Even driving a car becomes stressful as aging slowly robs the elderly of sharp thinking and quick responses. It's why the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division requires that driver's licenses issued for those 60 years and older be renewed every five years.

So when Jim, 82, a Kingman resident, called me this week to ask if I could run an article so he could apologize for, of all things, being old, I was a bit taken aback. It seems that Jim and his wife, Phyllis, 80, suffer from a number of ailments, from double scoliosis and spina bifida for her to poor circulation and head injuries from falling frequently for him. Jim, a Korean War veteran, and Phyllis are both on oxygen and require the use of walkers. They are, quite naturally, a bit cranky at times.

Because they have no family and few friends here, Jim must drive to the grocery store himself when they need food and other necessities. Usually, he takes the back roads to Bashas to avoid traffic, but because the ATM wasn't working on Tuesday morning, he was forced to detour to Smith's on Stockton Hill Road. After making his purchases, he drove a back road to Sycamore Avenue and waited for the light to turn green so he could make a left turn onto Stockton Hill Road.

That's where the trouble began.

"I thought I would take a chance on Stockton Hill Road and I made the mistake of turning onto it," said Jim. "I made a quick left turn about 9:30 a.m. and a pickup truck coming towards me almost ran into me. The driver slammed on the brakes and honked at me. I was wrong and that driver was right, and I want the driver to know that I apologize. It was my fault. Let this be a warning for elderly people like me to always take the back roads."

Really? Maybe drivers on Stockton Hill Road and its feeders should slow down so people - whether they're elderly or young - don't get hurt. I see the tailgating and angry passing all the time on those roads. Jim is quick to point out that he obeys all the traffic laws and uses his turn signals religiously because he is from an older generation, which actually makes him a safer driver. He doesn't want to use his last name because he's afraid his driver's license will be taken away and they couldn't eat.

I understand Jim's situation. Vehicles were sitting behind and beside him, impatiently waiting to enter the intersection, and he was nervous. The light turned green and it was do or die. So he turned, and his action created a problem for another driver. It happens to the best of us, no matter our age.

But it certainly doesn't mean elderly drivers should be relegated to the back roads. They have just as much right as anyone to travel through Kingman and take care of their business - without any apologies.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, October 7, 2013
Article comment by: Capt. Nice

Some cultures respect the elderly, but not in America where the old people are treated with
disdain and just want them gone.
I plan on being around as long as I can just to make the young ones mad, I will drive the speed limit and walk slowly coming out of Wally World, I will get up half a dozen time when I go to the movies to go to the bathroom.
Young people forget that one day they will be old and see what we oldsters have to put up with.

Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013
Article comment by: quote of the day .....

"I'd like to go quietly in my sleep, like grandpa did. Not screaming in terror like the people in the back seat of the car he was driving."

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: Roy Leggett

I have an idea. If no one under 65 were allowed to drive then we would have only 8 % of the accidents we now have....AND...since us old geezers drive so slow( quote from previous blog) then there would never be any fatalities.Anyone under 65 could use the bus or a cab and this age group could afford to pay the cost of public transportation. PROBLEM SOLVED..Before stating facts about seniors being in auto accidents, you might want to check the facts as to who has auto accidents.

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: Thank you for posting this column

I read this column last week and came back once again to look at the comments. I find some of the suggestions very interesting, I also find them rather uninformed. I work with our "aging" population and I can speak from my own experiences. I can tell you that many/most manage keep up very well with our ever-changing world. I would trust someone over 65 to drive over most that are 16-25 years old. With that said, suggesting driver's licenses be revoked at a certain age is ridiculous. We already live in a population that relies on their parents for assistance, grown adults with adult expenses. It is highly unlikely that these parents will be able to turn to their children for help--like driving them for even the simplest visit to the grocery store. Certainly, using public bus/transportation is a "nice" idea, but not for everyone.

We all age.Everyone ages. Circumstances change. The very best thing we can do is look out for each other and appreciate the value of independence and experience.

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: vock canyon

I've been making that left for many years now and with both lanes turning left I haved been forced into the wrong side of the street by the outside lane drivers making the same turn but pulling into my lane. It is suprising how easy it is to do when you notice the driver on your right moving towards you, suddenly you realize that you are facing opposing traffic while avoiding a collision from the right as you make the turn. The first time it happend to me I thought it was my fault, then I saw it happen to some one else and realized that my experiance wasn't my fault. The good news I avoided any damage, clearly others haven't. Of course had there been any damage it would have been my fault and the drive who came out of their lane would have been long gone. So, experiance and slow speed came in handy.

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: Roy Leggett

I am 75 and guess I am one of the slow pokes on Stockton Hill. No, wait, I drive 35 MPH, the speed limit.It's all the idiots that drive 45-50 on our streets that cause the problems. Go to traffic court and most are below 50 years old, and most are charged with exessive speed and illegal lane changes.In 2011, due to medical prroblems I turned in my drivers license to DMV. A couple of months ago I went back to DMV and got them back, with 100% on driving. 99% on written and perfect vision. Also, never had a wreck in my life or got a speeding ticket. So this "OLD GEEZER" will continue to drive the posted speed limit. A little advice. Next time leave home earlier and you will not be late for where ever you are in a rush to get to....

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: Retired and still hangin' in there

@Old People Need to Be More Responsible
The woman was not "82 or 83", she was 87 and according to the Gilbert police, not impaired. Statistics don't support criticism of elderly drivers. In fact, the percentages for the age ranges are: under 19~12% 20-24~15% 25-34~20% 35-44~18% 45-54~17% 55-64~10% 65-74~05% over 75~3+%.

I think the reason most youngsters complain about elderly drivers is because we older folks are slower and much more cautious.

FYI: the worst age when alcohol is involved is 24! [US Census].

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: Highly Amused

While being old may not be their fault, being an irresponsible driver is and I mean anyone of any age - to be blunt about it. I've always said those under 21 and those over 65 should be given the test they give when they first hit driving age. Just to make sure they can follow road rules etc still.

And yes, this is a very selfish generation - but who made them that way? Previous generations. What ye sew, ye reap.

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Airway and Stockton Hill is not for the weak of heart, and yes, the streets are full of impatient drivers. But the other writer that mentioned the bus is correct. KART can come to your residence with a mini bus and take you almost anywhere you need to go.

Give them a call at (928) 718-1470!

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: Verna Butler

How sad that we sit in judgement of everyone that we know nothing about. This family may have no extra money and may not even have enough to eat and yet I only saw one person willing to help. I will gladly help them get where they need to go. Please give them my number. We need more doers and less people who have enough time to sit around and make comments on the internet but take no time to help others!! You'll be there someday too!

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Article comment by: Uncle Anson

From the dawn of time custom, and in more recent history, the written record, has held the elderly in great esteem. They were the mentors, counsel, chiefs and regarded as the wise. The vast majority of what we call aboriginal or developing or developed societies still practice respect for the elderly. At what point and by what metric do you judge? There was a movie several years ago titled Solent Green. It appears that it just may turn out to be prophetic. To soon to old to late to smart.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Old People Need to Be More Responsible

I'd like to know what the rest of us are to put up with until they are off the road. A few years ago, a woman in her 80s ran over a teenager in Tucson walking through a crosswalk. She must have thought it was a speed bump as the front wheels of her car drove over the girl, then her back wheels. When she was finally tracked down, she had no recollection of the "accident." What about the 82 or 83 year old who, just today drove through the front of a message school in the Phoenix area. Speculation is she got confused as to the break and gas peddle. I think citizens at that age should be more responsible to younger people and find other means of getting around.

P.S.: I'm 61

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Retired and still hangin' in there

I'm an 82 year old geezer, who because of arthritis can't walk a block. But I used to love hiking mountain trails (climbed Mt.Lassen twice).

In my 70's I considered volunteering to drive disabled folks around since driving is the easiest physical activity I could still do! Although I think that 75mph is far too fast for safety on Arizona highways... not because of the drivers, but because of the equipment (I used to be an aerospace failure analyst )!

When I obtained my Arizona driver's license the young gal testing my sight mentioned that I could see better than she. As to mental acuity, I find 'medium' Sudoku puzzles boring, am active on Facebook and have my own BLOG (you wouldn't be interested, I'm a CA transplant lib'ral)!

Guess my point is that age is not the metric to use regarding driving ability.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Desert Angel

A friend of mine has a bus service that takes her to Dr. appts. and to the store. I believe she pays $1 for this door to door service. Perhaps this couple should check into it next time they need groceries or a Dr. visit.
My Dad was 89 when they took his lisc. away. Only because his demintia was increasing and they were afraid he would get lost, which he did

. Being older, I am 70 and when my lisc. comes up in a couple more years, I will not be renewing. My eyesight is bad enough to make me worry when driving through Stockton Hill Road and the crazy traffic.
I hope someone will contact this couple and offer to help them out. I am lucky enough to have children who care for me and soon I will no longer have to drive. Hope I don't get stuck in the house every day because my children are too busy for me.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Old desert woman, Sherry, Betty - loved your posts.

Biker randy. Hahahaha! My kind of guy. I too love speed.

Thinking of elderly driving, I once called my Kingman Aunt from TX to check on her.

I asked what she was up to. She said she had been very busy giving the elderly rides to the store, Doctor, picking up items and delivering to them, etc. Also was setting up bingo parties/brunch once a week for a rest home here.

I laughed and pointed out she was the elderly. It had apparently escaped her. She was past 80 at that time.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Old Desert Woman

When I lived in Hawaii briefly I took a small bus to the downtown area. I was so impressed with the young people there. If an older person got on the little bus a young person immediately stood up and offered their seat calling the older person Auntie or Uncle.
Part of our education program should be young people helping the older folks who may need some help around the house, lifting, weeding or cleaning.. It is sad how self absorbed this generation is becoming. These old folks, no doubt raised families, had jobs and did service to the younger folks, why shouldn't they be respected and cared for?

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: KO TAY

I read this and thought about about an ederly couple I used to take to town so they could get groceries, pay bills, just get out for a bit. They have since passed away, but I look back now and wish I could, wish I would have done so much more. If you know someone who is elderly take a moment to ask if they need anything, go anywhere, just spend a few minutes chatting about life. We will all be in their shoes one day no way to prevent that. I bet when we get to that point we will wish we had someone who cares enough to help us out. Quit judging the elderly and their skills, maybe lend a hand. My mother had to move in with my sister back east because she is unable to run a household anymore. Her mind is forgetful at times. We are all going to be there one day don't let Karma bite you where you sit.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Cart Before Horse

@Age for Those Driving Should Be 16 - 70

"However, what would the cost be if an 82 year old ended up killing a child or another person."

Uh. Accidents happen every day and where is your proof most of them are cause by drivers over 70? oh wait they aren't. Your ageist argument is invalid.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: biker randy

I am a 70 y.o. driver and yes, slow pokes(older or younger) get on my nerves. If they were all by themselves driving, that's fine. But when surrounded by more aggressive drivers than them(slow), it shouldn't be happening, IMHO. My attitude is if you can't blend in with the flow, you're a hazard. I also ride MCs, scooters so I'm capable of handling most traffic situations. Maybe if/when I reach 80y.o.(doubt it) I'll see this differently. But I also understand what it would be like with less mobility. Not something to look forward to.

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Article comment by: Sherry Townsend

This was heartbreaking to me. It is sad when the elderly are forgotten. I do not believe they should be driving out in this high paced world as it is a danger to others and themselves if they are that timid. I would love to go get what they need for them to avoid putting him in danger. So please reach out to them and provide my phone # or have them get me theirs. I want everyone to remember that we all are going to be old one day and pray that someone will care enough about you.

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Article comment by: oldlady iam

For Jim, I am sorry you have no family and very few friends. I feel bad for all the rude people in Kingman, nowadays there just is not patience amoung most people under fifty, I am 67 and know how you feel, It has to be hard not to be able to get out of your house just to go for a pleasure ride, much less the places you have to go to survive..Please know not everyone is rude or immature, if I were closer to Kingman I would gladly offer you to ride anywhere you would like to go..Take care Sir!

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

(delete) Many people who are 70 are still working. What are they supposed to do if alone, take a taxi daily.

I'm past that age, an excellent driver, never caused a wreck in my life and still drive to Texas and back when the mood strikes me. My particular favorite place to drive is on crowded freeways. Don't ask me why, just always been that way.

You missed the mark here. Years of experience often means more than being able to still run a foot race. And I'm not sure at all age diminishes your brain power. Ever read Thomas Sowell's daily column? He's 83.

As far as reflexes, may stiffer, but don't see much difference.

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Article comment by: one of these days .....

the transformation from free country to utter tyranny will soon be complete, and we'll no longer use the term Homeland, and start using "Fatherland" - a place where the useless elderly are remanded to euthanasia along with meth addicts and civil servants who have bloated their final year(s) of employment with obscene overtime and/or cashing in vacation & sick leave to mooch upon the citizenry without regard to their condition. As Winston Churchill pointed out during the Dunkirk evacuation, stretchers take up the space which could be used by several healthy soldiers (on transport ships) still capable of carrying on the war. He ordered them left behind. I'm writing this tongue-in-cheek, since this Government dances with the ludicrous concept that everyone can be coddled - until everyone suffers the consequences. Everyone, that is, but the chosen - unless you haven't seen Jesse Ventura's latest video on America's underground cities.

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Article comment by: Betty Stimson

What a tragic, scary situation to be placed in. Why, with all the gimme programs for other's who need food stamps, welfare checks, medical insurance etc - is there not someone to help 'us' old people when we are not yet put-down by our conditions and are still trying to function on our own? So many of us, with just a little extra help, are still able to stay in our homes if we could have just one person to pick up the scary or impossible things.
I for one would gladly 'adopt some old folks' (as I'm near that myself) and take them to stores or do for them what they can't do any longer. Everyone should 'adopt' someone they know of so as a people, American's will start taking care of their old folks like so many, so called, old world or 3rd world countries do and never stopped. This, if anything is where America has been totally lacking in an embarrassing way for decades. We also used to but stopped in the 60's when we all started thinking only in the 'me' terms.

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Good column Kim:

Oh to be 55 again when I could still outwork a longshoreman.

I have noted though, older drivers are often much better drivers than the young. Always keep to the right is good advice. If you can't remember if you put your underwear on, might be time to quit.

Old myself, two kinds of arthritis , slowing for a stop sign, a young man approached from behind, obviously text messaging on his steering wheel. Never slowing, he plowed right into me, then gunned it around me and sped off. Having been warned of rear enders and my condition, I was grateful I could still move.

My best advice. If cold or heat bothers you, keep going anyway. When falling down, make it part of the dance. Lay there awhile, letting your bones "settle", then find a way to get up.

Drink lots of water, eat meat anyway and enough greens to not be considered grazing. Pray.

This simple method has kept me out of rest homes and asylums for years.

Here's your assignment. Mow the lawn this weekend, then refinish that piece of furniture sitting in the garage. You'll feel wonderful afterwards. God bless you, Jim/Mrs. Jim.

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