By Michael Romain
WEDNESDAY, MAYWOOD — On the first floor of the Maywood Multipurpose Building at 200 S. 5th Avenue, eye-testing centers were set-up in the front of the general purpose room. Lisa Kirk, a representative from the Secretary of State’s office, stood at a table covered with Illinois Rules of the Road booklets and other literature. A small assembly of about fifteen people, mostly seniors, sat patiently at tables, some studying for the written portion of the driving test, others waiting to take eye exams. Another thirty or so seniors were gathered upstairs in one of the classrooms, listening to an instructor explain how to turn right on red without triggering that dreaded flash.
“I’m never turning right on red again, because I don’t have $100 for another ticket,” said Jessie Davis
At one intersection in Bellwood, the instructor noted, the photo-enforced cameras became such a source of agitation that the village opted to simply uninstall them. It turns out that everybody was thinking like Mr. Davis, causing traffic to jam.
The 200 Building’s transformation into a virtual DMV office was the result of a collaboration between the Maywood Seniors Club and the Secretary of State’s Super Seniors Program. For one day, seniors in the community could renew or correct their state ID at no cost, obtain plate stickers, take a rules of the road review course and learn about organ/tissue donating, among other activities. Although the free services offered were restricted to those who are at least 65, the event was open to everyone.
Dorris Ross typically travels to Lombard whenever she needs her license renewed, but after receiving a notification in the mail about the event, she decided to come here. “I got [Secretary of State] Jessie White’s letters and so I came here for an eye test in order to get my license. They waited on me right away, they are on the ball.”
Larry Shapiro, the Village’s senior citizens coordinator and the event’s facilitator, said that the Village first brought in the Super Seniors Program a year ago and the response was great. It’s a service, he believes, that conveniently provides what becomes increasingly necessary as people age. “A form of ID for seniors is really important,” he said.
And as if to preempt the stereotype that senior citizens and DMV’s don’t quite mix, Mr. Shapiro emphasized some uncommon knowledge. “Seniors, more than anybody else, absorb information and appreciate it,” he said, referring to the seniors above our heads who were participating in the rules of the road review course.
“I remember when a woman came from the Department of Health and Human Services. She was a specialist in Medicare/Medicaid talking about how Obama’s Healthcare Act would affect [senior] coverage. They asked great questions…” Ironically, the extra attentiveness is useful in acclimating seniors to roads full of younger, much more distracted drivers–for whom the rules have been drastically overhauled.
“So many things have changed over the years with respect to the laws,” Mr. Shapiro said, before citing a litany of advancements that included cell phones and photo-enforced cameras.
About twenty feet away, Mayor Edwenna Perkins was sitting at a table with a phone to her ear. She had come to both observe the program and to renew her own license. “I needed mine renewed this year,” she said. “And this works for me. I usually go to Melrose Park, but this way I don’t have to drive over there. I only wish more people had heard about it. I’m glad [Mr. Shapiro] is doing this, though.” VFP