Fake News, or not?

by convenor on 23/07/2018

Page 11 of this week’s Sunday Telegraph has the headline, “Driven to doctor shop” above a sub-heading “The elderly use desperate tactics to keep licences as deaths rise“.

The story is about older drivers resorting to ‘doctor shopping’ to continue driving when required to obtain a medical clearance to drive from 75 years of age onwards. The only evidence the article provides that this might be happening is that a doctor (who is also a Federal MP) was asked by his grandmother to approve her continuing to drive! Fake news … or let’s not have the facts get in the way of a “good” story, I say.

 

No doubt many elderly people are desperate to maintain their independence as drivers, and will get a second opinion before they begrudgingly accept that they are to become Shut-in Seniors but this story doesn’t shed any light on the extent of this practice or whether it is a successful strategy.

In the absence of any facts supporting the story’s contention, I can only conclude that it is just lazy Ageism looking for a headline.

The more disturbing element of the story is the sub-heading, which infers that older drivers are now facing a higher fatality rate than in previous years. The data it provides shows that the elderly driver fatality rate in NSW has risen from 10 to 12 fatalities in 2018 compared with the same period in 2017. The report does acknowledge that there are more drivers over 75  these days but it doesn’t think to query whether the increase in the fatality rate is explained by the increasing numbers of elderly drivers on our roads or the mileages that they travel. Neither is any data given about long term trends nor any comment on the statistical significance of this result.

What is likely to be significant is the rise in pedestrian fatalities from 4 to 15 in the same period. The reasons for that do need  serious examination and attention by road safety authorities. But the story makes no attempt to investigate why this might have happened either.

Interestingly, the story also flags another article elsewhere in the publication. It’s on page 87 penned by an anonymous columnist and is titled, “Confessions of a Guilty Son”. It’s message is to denigrate the driving ability of  the columnist’s father but there’s no right of reply for the elderly driver involved.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Looks to me like a bit more Ageism at play really.

Even with its limitations, articles like these serve to highlight the growing concerns of Seniors and their loss of independence when handing in their licences and it is good that we talk about it in our community … and that solutions are found to help them.

Action is what is most needed; the sort of future action suggested by Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel who will say, “Imagine what self-driving cars could mean for the elderly” when he delivers his address at The Human Rights Commission “Human Rights and Technology” conference in Sydney on 24 July. Although his suggested action is a few years away, he effectively acknowledges that the elderly have a basic human right to independent movement even if they can’t drive any more.

If that is so, what about today’s Seniors?

What is needed is a community response that delivers a ‘fair go’ for the elderly; and Community Rideshare programs, like CarPal can be a large part of the solution. Before that can happen, the community needs to know the extent of the anguish facing people as they lose their licences and the limited options that they face as they attempt to get on with living.

Not until we start to see media reports detailing the personal stories and the suffering of Shut-in Seniors living amongst us, will the community really see the concerns of the elderly. They are real but generally unseen by the rest of us.

Action like Community Rideshare will follow once the community recognises that the elderly have a right to mobility as much as any of us, so that they can live their remaining years free from loneliness and social isolation. Every Australian, elderly or not, deserves nothing less.

 

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John

© 2018

 

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