Mike Bergman, son of a Lakota-Sioux mother and a half-Native father, helps Arizona senior citizens hone their driving skills.
Aging drivers aren’t necessarily bad drivers, he told TriValleyCentral.com. They don’t get into more collisions. But seniors in accidents are much more likely to die, Bergman said. At 68, Bergman falls into the senior category himself.
That's what inspires Bergam to serve as an instructor for AARP’s 55 Alive senior driving program at the Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center in Casa Grande, Arizona.
In addition to working with aging drivers on their road skills, he cautions his fellow seniors on a few key points.
He strongly warns against alcohol. “They want their hotty toddies,” he said. But perhaps the bigger issue at stake is the pills they take. “I would say a good 80 percent of them are on medication,” Bergman said.
Various medications tend to impair the essential motor skills: reaction time, vision and hearing. Elders are also more likely to develop cataracts -- something he has experienced firsthand. He recalls first noticing the problem when an ambulance was driving by. “It looked like a big Ferris wheel going down the road,” he said.
Luckily, cataracts can be corrected. Bergman had lens-implant surgery and got back behind the wheel.
While Bergman hopes to help seniors remain on the road as safe and aware drivers, he knows time takes its toll. When that happens, it's time to hand over the keys. Bergman says it’s often difficult for senior drivers to give up driving when they should, but he stresses the importance of being self-aware. “I’ve developed Parkinson’s, and sooner or later it’s going to take away my ability to drive.”