No birthday barriers

The world’s our oyster – irrespective of how old we are

The Proms

‘Age should not be a barrier...’ so the saying goes, but stereotypes can so easily lead us to think that it is only the young who can inspire leadership, innovation and exploration.

And sure, while Austria and France, for example, have political leaders who are full of, to borrow from another politician, ‘vim’ – in Austria’s case, Sebastian Kurz became the world’s youngest chancellor at the ripe old age of 31 – if we look across the Atlantic, it is striking that Trump will be 74 next year. Meanwhile in the crowded Democratic primary husting that took place this week, race leader Joe Biden is turning 77 and fellow race favourite Bernie Sanders is already 78.

This year I attended two packed BBC Proms. The first was a virtuosic piano concerto, conducted by 76-year-old Daniel Barenboim, and played by his childhood friend, Martha Argerich, 78. Neither had a score in front of them. A few weeks later, conductor Bernard Haitink played his last concert in the UK, aged a cool 90. The programme notes explained that he has not retired, merely that he is ‘taking a sabbatical.’

I found myself thinking about these extraordinary age-defying performances while reading an article for OT’s upcoming edition of vision and driving, landing next weekend.

Penned by the director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, Neil Greig, he asserts that older drivers get bad press and challenges us to focus on solutions that keep older drivers on the road.

While noting that the standard number plate test doesn’t go far enough, Mr Greig writes: “The problem is that tough laws can lead to perfectly safe drivers giving up – and this is the key issue for us. How can we develop a system that improves road safety but doesn’t lead to more older people giving up driving too soon? It is well known that this leads to depression and deterioration in health that ultimately costs society more in the long run.”

As is so often the case, the role of communication between optometrist and patient is key.

Writing in the November edition, the AOP’s Henry Leonard explains that “we must ensure that the patient understands the reasons for our concerns and provide clear advice on the patient’s obligation to inform the DVLA or the DVA.”

A driving and vision leaflet is available for AOP members if the patient is a Group 1 driver.

Please email and let us know your experiences of managing driving-related issues – be it with a patient, a family member, or your own vision: [email protected]