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Michele Ellicks, Registry of Motor Vehicles elderly outreach coordinator, spoke with John Holt, 85, at the Concord Council on Aging Friday.
Michele Ellicks, Registry of Motor Vehicles elderly outreach coordinator, spoke with John Holt, 85, at the Concord Council on Aging Friday. (Globe Staff Photo / Joanne Rathe)

Where the road ends

Page 2 of 2 -- Because most seniors have had so much experience on the roads, Ellicks steers clear of scare tactics and doesn't mention specific incidents. Instead, she focuses on the physical changes that are part of aging, and explains how diminished sight and hearing can make people unsafe drivers.

''Hearing is critical to safe driving, so turn off the radio, and keep the heater on low, so you can hear horns honking," she told the seniors on Friday.

She also hones in on their frugal side, telling them that the Registry will give them a free identification card in exchange for handing over their driver's license. ''You can use this free card for identification and it never has to be renewed," said Ellicks, 41, who lives in Acton.

She encouraged them to consider the cost of driving when evaluating its importance. ''It's estimated that it costs about $4,000 a year to keep a car on the road. That's a lot of money," she said.

The Registry's medical affairs director, Steven Evans, who launched the ''Shifting Gears" program in 1998, said the topics addressed are delicate ones.

''We know that the population in the United States is aging, and we also know that around age 75, drivers are more likely than any other age group to be in an at-fault accident, except for [young adults between 16 and 20]. We also know that not all old people are bad drivers, so our philosophy is to treat the person as an individual."

It's a point Ellicks drives home by encouraging people to consider safety over speed.

''You've got to assess your driving, and find out what you are comfortable with," she told the Concord crowd.

She also told them to plan ahead for the day when they don't drive anymore. ''As a society, we plan for everything, our retirement, vacations, but none of us plan for the day when we won't be driving, and we need to plan for that day. We need to be prepared," she said.

Some seniors at the seminar said they do think about that time, often.

''But the problem is that there are no good alternatives," said Natalie Lipman, an 85-year-old from Acton, who car-pooled to the seminar with two friends.

''If you want to go somewhere at night, or on the weekend, forget about it."

Christine McConville can be reached at cmcconville@globe.com 

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