Thursday 22 February 2018

'I don't know what I'll do when I can't visit my wife' - RTE doc reveals stories of elderly facing isolation after losing driving licences

Too Old for the Road, RTE One, 9.35pm

Michael Hayes on Too Old for the Road
Michael Hayes on Too Old for the Road

The plight of elderly Irish people who are facing the prospect of losing their driving licences is explored in a new one-off RTE documentary tonight.

Too Old for the Road focuses on the importance of being able to drive for elderly people's independence and for their ability to stay connected with friends, family and society.

Michael Hayes (84) from Kilkenny is just one of the people featured in the doc.  He is suffering from age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition for which there is no cure. 

Despite needing a magnifying glass to read, Michael still drives 30 minutes to a nursing home to visit his wife of 55 years, Margaret. 

too old Michael-Hayes-2.jpg
Michael Hayes. Too Old for the Road, RTE One, Monday June 19, 9.35pm

People over 70 in Ireland must submit a medical report from a doctor when renewing their licence.  The doctor can recommend it be valid for one year or three. 

However, drivers must tell the licensing authority about any injury or illness which may affect their safe driving ability.

Michael's driving licence expires in a few months and with a renewal unlikely he does not know how he will be able to see her.

"I don't know what I'm going to do when I can't visit my wife," he says, "It's not a nice thing to think about.  I'm not looking forward to it."

too old Michael-Hayes-1.jpg
Michael Hayes. Too Old for the Road, RTE One, Monday June 19, 9.35pm

There is no public transport between his home and the nursing home and although Michael's son drives him "when he's not working himself" his son is leaving for Thailand shortly. 

Speaking about Margaret and why she lives in a nursing home, Michael, who now lives alone, becomes very emotional.

"I wasn't able to look after her, you see, when I had the operation," he explains.  "I was months in hospital and she had a couple of strokes and then she had to go into hospital.

"They wouldn't let her out of the hospital.  They wouldn't let her back here.  They said it wasn't safe for her.  So they got her into Thomastown. 

"We'll be married 55 years in September.  That's a long time.  It's terrible to be getting old.  Nobody wants you.  Hospitals don't want you.  Nursing homes... well."

Michael's story is just one of several stories, both moving and uplifting, featured in Too Old for the Road, which airs on RTE One tonight (Monday) at 9.35pm.

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