By Betty Berry, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010  Q: I am 80 years old and still driving my own car. A friend of mine just experienced being a victim of a carjacking and I am wondering what I can do to reduce my chances of becoming a victim. Do you have any common sense suggestions?

A: Carjacking is a crime all drivers need to think about. Many assume it is only a big-city problem but unfortunately it can and does happen in the suburbs as well.

I’ve talked to several people about your question and have the following suggestions. The first precautions should take place before you ever take to the road. Proper maintenance of your vehicle is a must. Next make sure you have sufficient gas in the tank. These simple tasks will avoid the necessity of stopping in unplanned and possibly unsafe areas. Plan your route in advance even if it is a local trip. If you are venturing into new territory familiarize yourself as much as possible.

Once on the road concentration is important. Don’t let yourself be distracted. If you lose your focus on the road and surroundings you could become an easy target. Be cautious of where you stop.

Whenever possible select well lit and well traveled areas.

Drive defensively. Use the middle lane when possible. Don’t allow yourself to be pinned in. If you must stop, leave enough space between cars to allow yourself to pull away if necessary. Always lock your car doors even when inside and drive with your windows closed.

When returning to a parked automobile always check both front and back seats before entering. Remember the old warning, never pick up a hitchhiker. It is still good advice today.

Q: I have a friend who has recently lost her sight. When I’m visiting I want to help her but I’m not sure what I should or shouldn’t do. Do you have any thoughts?

A: How thoughtful of you to consider your friend’s special needs. Whenever possible treat your friend as you would any sighted person. Most people who have a disability learn to work with their limitations and want to do for themselves whenever possible.

Help your friend use whatever vision she may have. Legal blindness is not necessarily total blindness and use of wide gestures and contrasting colors especially black and white are more easily seen.

Always ask how you may be of help before taking the initiative to act. For example if you are in a restaurant don’t assume you need to read the menu aloud; ask if doing so would be helpful.

When walking from one area to another allow your friend to take your arm, don’t take hers. As you walk alert your friend to changes such as a narrowing of the walkway or that there are steps ahead. Your friend will likely fall a half-step behind allowing you to lead the way.

Relax and enjoy your visits. You will soon learn in what areas assistance is needed and appreciated.


Just a reminder that we are now in the annual enrollment period for Medicare. If you want to change your healthcare insurance coverage or change your Medicare Part D Prescription plan this is the time to do it.

Annual enrollment started on Nov. 15 and will run through Dec. 31. The coverage that you have on Dec. 31 will be the coverage that you have for 2011. If you have questions contact the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program. It can be reached at 800-434-0222.

— Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; call 495-6250 or e-mail (please include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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