At the James Bay New Horizon’s Centre, many of the seniors playing bridge don’t drive anymore.   It just wasn’t in the cards for them, including Norah Thomas.

Thomas loved her car but she gave it up after a stroke in December.

“I can’t drive. I have to take cabs where I go, I’m learning the bus system. It’s quite a major change for me,” Thomas said.

In the past, Thomas may have had to take the two-stage DriveABLE Cognitive Assessment.

First, the person being tested completes a touchscreen quiz designed to evaluate cognitive ability ?the second part is a road test.

However, a new system starts in March that advocates say is fairer to seniors, according to B.C.’s Senior Advocate Isobel MacKenzie.

“It’s simpler. It is based on the same kind of testing we give everybody. Because the argument is why should the test to determine my ability to drive at 80 be any different than the kid at 16,” MacKenzie said.

Local driving school owner Steve Wallace says the changes to the process are a major step forward.

“The people who did the DriveAble process will be extremely pleased with this process because of the encumbrance of the computer and not getting the results at the end, and not driving in your own car in your own town,” Wallace said.

Now seniors required to take the new enhanced road assessment will be able to take a longer test in their own car with an instructor who recognizes this may be their first driving test in decades.

“It’s less anxiety-inducing for the person going through the testing. This whole thing gives us another opportunity to remind those approaching 80, 98 per cent of you will be successful,” MacKenzie said.

Back at the seniors’ centre, Thomas realizes it may be a while before she is back behind the wheel with the new system. But she’s okay with that.

“I might not want to do it. I want to drive tomorrow, which I wanted to do yesterday.”

Mary Griffin