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August 11. 2013 10:19PM

Belmont police to host workshop for senior drivers

BELMONT — The police department, in its continuing effort this year to connect with and help the citizens of the town, is reaching out to senior citizens in hopes that they will come to a special workshop aimed at helping them to keep their driving skills sharp.

The department’s community officer, Lt. Richard Mann, said police have invited representatives of AAA New England’s “Keeping the Keys” program to the event on Wednesday, at which seniors can learn how to adjust to natural changes in driving ability caused by age, and how to keep their driving skills sharp.

There is no cost to attend. The event will be held Wednesday at the Briarcrest Estates Community Center at 100 Diamond Place in Laconia at 9 a.m.

Senior citizens are encouraged to take full advantage of AAA’s resources for senior drivers, which are aimed at helping seniors drive safer and longer into their lives while keeping their independence.

The workshop should not be perceived by seniors or younger drivers as a police-required course, nor does it reflect that police think seniors are bad drivers, Mann said.

In fact, the police decided to hold the workshop because seniors in town requested it, he said.

“The seniors have expressed concerns about their driving,” he said. “It’s a totally non-confrontational setting that’s meant as a refresher that will help seniors to keep driving as long as possible.”

The workshop includes a Powerpoint presentation by a AAA representative that helps seniors learn about body and life changes caused by age that can affect driving. Seniors can also learn about how medications can affect their driving, he said.

“It takes you through the changes as you age, and seniors might say, for instance, ‘maybe that medication does affect my driving,’” he said.According to AAA, by 2020, an estimated one in six people will be 65 or older, and most will be licensed to drive. In a survey of senior citizens by AAA, nearly 90 percent said the inability to drive would be a problem, with almost half claiming it a serious problem.

The survey showed 80 percent of senior drivers voluntarily avoid one or more high-risk driving situations, including bad weather (61 percent), night driving (50 percent), heavy traffic (42 percent) and unfamiliar roads (37 percent).

“As the fastest growing population in the country, a growing number of senior or mature drivers are starting to worry about losing the freedom that driving provides,” said Linda Gorman, a spokesperson for AAA, in a press release.

“While senior drivers will ’self-police’ to avoid driving situations they are uncomfortable with, many do not know where to turn to address concerns and find resources that can help extend their safe driving years,” she said.


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