Living in the fast lane when you are over 100

Posted on : Feb 22, 2015

Globally life expectancy is on an upward trend with recent estimates suggesting there may be a million centenarians by 2030, just 15 years away. Most of us are aware of what is required to live a long life – love, supportive family, a healthy lifestyle regarding food, alcohol, exercise etc - but many articles celebrating the lives of our centenarians mention that they love (or loved) to drive. The desire for autonomy, convenience and independence keeps this demographic young at heart.


As centenarians the world over are perennial favourites of the media, you may remember some of the names. Take Bob Edwards of Ngataki who drove until his doctor vetoed it, aged 106. For a brief period he was considered the world’s oldest living licensed driver.


Hazel Murzey of Upper Hutt was 106 when she died in 2013 and only gave up driving, aged 102, because she’d suffered a stroke.


Kaiapoi resident Ellen Noy passed away in 2011 but was still driving when she was 105.


In the US, Fred Hale drove until he was 108! He passed away aged 113.


Britain’s oldest licensed driver in 2013 was 107. At that time there were reportedly 190 licensed drivers over 100 years old in Britain.


So what are the licensing requirements for senior New Zealand drivers? For 75 and over, there is a shorter renewal period (between two and five years), a medical certificate is required each time you apply (this would probably include a vision test) and if recommended by your doctor, a 30 minute On Road Safety Test may apply. On the upside, the renewal fees are lower for seniors because their license is reviewed more often.


The laws vary widely in the United States but generally senior drivers over a certain age must renew their license more often and in person. If a complaint has been received, the person has a history of violations or accidents or their physician steps in, stricter criteria such as medical examinations or re-sitting licensing tests may apply.


Interestingly the Brits rely on self-declaration of fitness to drive every three years after 70 and do not back this up with formal tests.


There are plenty of aids available in New Zealand to help keep an aged person - even a centenarian – mobile.


A mobility card issued by the CCS Disability Action organisation provides wider than usual parking spaces closer to your destination, be it a shopping mall, supermarket or doctors rooms. The card costs $50 for a five year period. This excellent scheme means that even when the doctor puts your brakes on and your license is revoked, you can use your card when family, friends or paid transport providers take you out in their car.


Other aids related to your vehicle include wheelchair carriers, hand controls, steering wheel spinners, specialised seat belt handles, handy bars and swivel cushions to assist getting in and out of the vehicle, reversing cameras and parking sensors.


If you really want to stay behind the wheel, what about a mobility scooter? Residents of Christchurch may find the less- than-smooth surfaces around town a challenge but these are an eco-friendly option if you don’t have to go too far. One sprightly nonagenarian I know uses hers to take her exuberant spaniel for walks.


Statistics suggest older drivers are underrepresented in serious injury or fatal accidents so keep on driving, centenarians! You are an inspiration to us all.


Article submitted by Jan Colley for Agedadvisor (c) 2015. All rights reserved.