Social workers at Avenidas, the senior center in Palo Alto, have worked with many families on the sensitive issue of when people should stop driving. Driving represents independence to most seniors, so there is a lot of resistance to giving it up. However, deciding when to stop driving doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing decision.
For example, some seniors may choose to stop driving at night but continue driving in the day. Others might avoid times of heavy traffic, unfamiliar areas or when there is bad weather.
There are some actions seniors (or their families) can take to determine if they are still safe behind the wheel. Many of these suggestions can be found in the handy resource guide "How to Care for Aging Parents" by Virginia Morris.
1) Take a refresher course such as the "55 Alive" class taught by the AARP at Avenidas. Or call the DMV for other classes.
2) Call the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety at 800-305-7233 to request their self-exam for older drivers.
3) Wear a seat belt.
4) Have your eyesight and hearing tested.
5) If you suffer from dizziness, confusion or blurred eyesight, ask your doctor about ways to reduce these symptoms.
6) Exercise daily, which helps improve reaction times, range of motion and attentiveness. Simply stretching the neck each day by rotating the head side to side and up and down, and circling the shoulders can help people twist around to parallel park or check oncoming traffic with greater agility and safety. Avenidas offers numerous exercise classes for all levels of fitness.
7) Make sure your car is in good working order, including brakes, defroster, defogger, battery, wipers, dashboard light and exterior lights and turn signals.
8) Get large mirrors installed and add extra mirrors if you are having trouble turning your head to see what's behind you.
9) If you cannot see clearly over the dashboard, buy a seat cushion at an automobile store. (Do not use a pillow because it might slip.)
If it is your parents that you'd like to see not drive anymore, enlist the family doctor to tell them that it's time to stop driving. Or contact an Avenidas social workers for a consultation on how to broach the subject. And if your parents use their driver's licenses for identification, consider calling the DMV to request a photo ID card they can use instead.
Be ready to offer solutions to possible travel problems. For example, Avenidas has a van that takes seniors to the grocery store every week, and a bus that delivers people to Avenidas where they can eat lunch at La Comida. For seniors who could benefit from adult-day-health services, Avenidas has a van that delivers them to Avenidas Rose Kleiner Senior Day Health Center in Mountain View.
Additionally, Avenidas has a Roadrunners program in conjunction with El Camino Hospital. These are volunteer drivers that can take your parents where they want to go for very low fees. Call Avenidas Information and Assistance service at 650-289-5433 for more information on how to work with your parents to be safer behind the wheel or to consider giving up driving altogether.
Director of Marketing and Communications, Avenidas
Dogs and falls
The recent death of an older Palo Alton alerts us to the deadly risk of a simple fall (Weekly, Nov. 14). We must be vigilant about unsafe footing in public areas, which caused this tragic accident.
Elderly citizens are being pushed to the ground repeatedly by unleashed dogs in our public parks, as reported by the Palo Alto Weekly. While many elderly walkers avoid our parks as a result, others take the risk. It is only a matter of time before another deadly tragedy results from the friendly excitement of an unleashed pet.
A neighbor recently died when her dog pulled her to the ground, fracturing her hip. Another resident was tripped by a family dog, broke her hip, and died shortly afterwards. While these individuals accepted this risk, that is not true of older people enjoying a simple stroll in our public parks.
I appeal to other Palo Altans to protect our neighbors against this clear and present danger by leashing their dogs.
While it may be pleasant for owners and their pets to enjoy unleashed running in our parks, the risk to our neighbors must outweigh that unfettered used of the public commons.
Dine for kids
We would like to express our deep gratitude to all who supported Palo Alto Community Child Care and its fourth annual Dine For Kids event.
Thirty Palo Alto restaurants, several sponsors (including the Palo Alto Weekly), nearly 150 PACCC staff and board, 900 PACCC families and countless diners made the event a great success.
All proceeds of the event support PACCC's subsidy programs to provide quality child care to low-income families in our community.
Thank you to all of our supporters! Mark your calendars -- fifth annual Dine For Kids is Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008!
Executive Director, PACCC
Thank you, Mountain View, for authorizing the opening of a new center for day workers. As a member of ACLU, I visited the previous center and was impressed.
In addition to the services the paper listed, it asked potential employers to show an ID and put their names in a file so it lessened the incidence of problems the day workers encountered. They were sometimes mistreated, paid less than agreed or not at all.
Palo Alto has contracted with firms that employ day workers. Once, I found a street crew being paid cash by a white foreman. I doubt the workers got union wages. In fact, when there was a remodel next to my house, I asked the day workers who did it how much they got every night when the foreman paid them. They answered $2 hourly; the roofer paid them $4.
If Palo Alto saves money by employing day workers it should not have refused to pay the fee the MV Center requested. Los Altos did pay.
Please urge the city to pay that very small fee. Or it could open its own center. In Town and Country Village, many large stores have been unoccupied for more than a decade. Any of them would do and it would make the day workers visible to shoppers, who might hire them.
Oil and habitat
The recent oil spill in San Francisco Bay brings into sharp focus the critical importance of preserving and restoring the few remaining acres of wetlands.
When these habitats, which are refuges for wildlife, are damaged by disasters such as this spill, the remaining unspoiled marshes become even more essential for besieged animals.
This is one reason why Cargill/DMB's plan to fill in more of the bay for development in Redwood City has alarmed so many local residents and regional organizations.
Called Redwood City Industrial Saltworks by Cargill/DMB but known locally as Seaport Wetlands, these salt ponds can be restored to marsh, adding an essential margin of safety for the wildlife.
Since more than 85 percent of the bay's historic marshes have been diked or filled, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to purchase these 1,400 acres for restoration in 2003. Unfortunately, they were thwarted by an inflated appraisal.
The salt ponds should be reappraised to arrive at a fair price and Cargill should do the right thing and sell them for restoration to their natural state.
The recent oil spill also brings into sharp focus the Bay's value to the people who call this place home. As Howard Levitt with Golden Gate National Recreation Area stated in the San Francisco Chronicle (Nov.18), the outpouring of volunteer enthusiasm has been remarkable.
It demonstrates people's love for the bay, the beaches and the wildlife that uses these habitats.
In regards to Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto's Nov. 7 Guest Opinion, Bob Roth's Nov. 21 letter ("Expansion objectives") and the Weekly's "Editorial: New phase begins on Stanford's med center."
I find the mayor's piece somewhat confusing and not entirely conducive to the truly collaborative effort necessary for addressing the very real and serious issues Stanford Medical Center and this region face, and addressing the immense opportunities available. And, frankly, I laud the Weekly's editorial as much more even-handed.
I think that there is no question that this proposal provides incalculably far-reaching benefits to Palo Alto, the surrounding region and far beyond. It must be recognized that housing/traffic is at least a joint and regional problem — and Stanford should not be forced to bear the brunt of solving it or mitigating all the impacts.
Palo Alto must not fall into "NIMBYism" (the time is long past for any such) but must step up to do its part in return for the benefits of being in such an incredible place.
It will take good will, creativity and a lot of hard work -- qualities this place is very long on.
Blue Oak Lane