In many communities and for many older adults, being able to drive — and do so safely for as long as possible — is the key to being able to live independently.
The AARP Driver Safety program features online and in-person courses, workshops and tools to help drivers of any age be more skilled and confident behind the wheel. The offerings include:
- The AARP Smart DriverTM course enables older drivers to maintain their skills, adjust to age-related challenges, and learn about the advances in car technology and changes in driving laws.
- Smart Driver TEKSM workshops are 90-minute, interactive, in-person classes that teach drivers how to use the ever-evolving and increasingly technical safety features in today's cars.
- CarFitSM events are held in locations nationwide to help drivers adapt to their cars — and adjust their "fit" within them — in order to reduce the risk of injury during a crash. (See the video below.)
- We Need to Talk is a free online seminar (available in English and Spanish) that can help family members assess a loved ones' driving skills and provide tools and suggestion for how to limit or stop that person from continuing to drive.
AARP Driver Safety workshops and classroom courses are taught by volunteer instructors nationwide.
Sherry Kolodziejczak, an occupational therapist, is a volunteer instructor for the AARP Smart Driver course. "We're aging, and that's just normal, but we have to recognize what has changed and work within those means," Kolodziejczak says.
As the director of the ALS Care Clinic and other therapy programs at Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Kolodziejczak interacts with patients who want to get back behind the wheel after recovering from head injuries and strokes. About a decade ago, an AARP staff member who knew of Kolodziejczak's expertise asked her to help with AARP CarFit.
Her reward for volunteering comes, Kolodziejczak says, when someone in her class looks up while she's teaching and leans in a little more. "That's when you know you’ve touched upon something the person is concerned about."
Kolodziejczak sometimes invites class members to bring their teenage grandchildren with them, so the newest drivers and most veteran drivers can talk about shared experiences and challenges, such as the difficulty of avoiding distractions and maintaining a focus on the road.
Part of the satisfaction for her older students, Kolodziejczak notes, "is proving that their driving challenges are not always a matter of age."
Related article: Volunteer with AARP Driver Safety
Published May 2018 | Reporting by Patrick J. Kiger