Eunice Moore, 90, wants to keep driving as long as she can. Although a daughter living in Blue Grass "is always taking me someplace," Moore said, she likes the convenience of being able to get into her 1995 Chevy Lumina for short trips around Davenport.
She gets her hair done every Thursday and goes to church services in Rock Island every Sunday. In between, she might stop at Hy-Vee, Walgreens or Kmart.
She began driving in her home community of Keokuk, Iowa, in the days before licenses were required. Now she is required to renew her license every year, going to the examiner's station for an eye test. But other than having to wear glasses, her license is unrestricted.
Moore self-restricts, though, never going out at night or onto high-speed areas such as the interstate. It's been a few years since she drove to visit her daughters in Blue Grass and Fulton.
She's never ridden any kind of public transit and doesn't really want to. She's heard from other people in her senior living apartment that River Bend Transit is a great service, but sometimes, when an appointment is finished and they call to be picked up, "they wait and wait."
The decision to stop driving is one of the most wrenching decisions an older adult can make. Driving means being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want and means not having to depend on others.
If the older adult refuses to stop driving — even if impaired vision or delayed reflexes make it unsafe — the topic is one of the most difficult for adult children to broach.
Both Iowa and Illinois offer options to keep the elderly driving, with certain restrictions.
While older people with diminishing skills can be a hazard to themselves and others, they are often safe drivers in areas that are familiar to them, said Kim Snook, office director of driver services for the Iowa Department of Transportation.
If a driver no longer qualifies for an unrestricted license, a drivers license examiner will assess a person's driving skills in the driver's own neighborhood, she said.
For many, this results in a license that restricts them to local areas (within a certain distance) or "daylight only" or streets of a certain speed limit, but keeps them mobile and independent, she said.
Retakes and an appeal are available.
In Snook's experience, it's around the age of 75 "when things start happening," she said. Still, Iowa has issued licenses to people who were 100, she said. "It's not age — it's driver fitness," she said.
Illinois isn't quite so free with restrictive licenses.
It will issue a license with similar restrictions, but only to people living in towns of fewer than 3,500 people, said Terry Montalbano, commercial drivers license administrator for the Illinois Secretary of State's office.
Anyone living in Rock Island or Moline, for example, would be out of luck.
In Iowa, anyone can send a written request to the DOT that a driver be called in for a written test, which also will allow an examiner to gauge the ability of the person to drive safely. This can be a child who is reluctant to bring up the subject of driving to their parent, a nosy neighbor, a doctor, a law enforcement officer, anyone.
The reporting can't be done in secret, though. If the elderly person asks who signed the report, the drivers license examiner will tell them.
Again, Illinois is a bit different. The report has to come from an "authorized source," which means a doctor, a state or federal official or a law enforcement officer, Montalbano said. It can't come from one's child or nosy neighbor.
But a child can arrange for a doctor's appointment, and if the doctor thinks there is an issue, he or she can report it. "That way the son or daughter aren't the bad guys," he said.
If the parent finds another doctor who says he's fine, the case goes to the Illinois Medical Advisory Board.