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South Shore Hospital helps keep older drivers safe

James Cameron and Eastern Nazarene president Corlis McGee.
James Cameron and Eastern Nazarene president Corlis McGee.

KEEPING OLDER DRIVERS SAFE: Mary Kennedy  knows the dangers aging drivers can face, as their skills and reflexes diminish with time. She is the coordinator of trauma-injury prevention at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and said doctors there see many elderly trauma patients who have been involved in automobile accidents.

“Statistically, older drivers are very safe overall,” she said. “But when they get in crashes, their injuries tend to be a lot more serious.”

The hospital is trying to make older drivers even safer. Four times a year, it offers a free AARP Driver Safety Program. The first this year is Wednesday at the hospital from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The course is for drivers 50 and older, and averages 10 to 15 participants each session, with the average age in the 70s, Kennedy said.

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The course is taught by Edward J. O’Connor  of Carver, retired superintendent of locomotive repair at the MBTA and executive director of Massachusetts Operation Lifesaver, a volunteer group that educates motorists about the dangers of railroad crossings.

His style is light and informative, Kennedy said.

“He is fun and low-key,” she said. “He gives a little fun quiz at the beginning, asking things like ‘Do you remember when?’ about a variety of things, but there’s no real testing involved, it’s all information.

“A lot of people have said to me after the class they learned things they didn’t know,” Kennedy said. “It’s a very popular class, and very interactive. Ed uses a Power Point presentation, but stops to talk to people, interacts with them, and they interact with each other. They’re all friends by the end.”

The course explains changes that occur in vision, hearing, and reaction times as people age, and provides tips for handling them, she said. O’Connor also talks about defensive driving techniques, new traffic laws and rules of the road, how to deal with aggressive drivers, how to handle problem situations, and how to use antilock brakes.

An added plus, Kennedy said, is that some insurance carriers give a discount to drivers who take the course. She advised participants to check with their insurance companies to see if a discount is available.

O’Connor also broaches a touchy subject, she said, “the issue of when it’s time to stop driving. He mentions how people may know it’s time to stop driving, but broadly so people can recognize the signs in themselves or in someone else. He gives them things to think about.”

Sometimes, the information provided by O’Connor is reassuring.

Some participants “said they thought they may have to give up their license,” she said, “but after taking the class, they felt better about it.”

Seating is limited and preregistration is required. To register, call Kennedy at 781-624-4253 or e-mail her at Mary_Kennedy@sshosp.org. Future course dates at the hospital are May 24, Aug. 21, and Nov. 20, she said. For information on the course, visit www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/driver_safety/.  

PLAZA HOSTING ‘HEART GALLERY’: South Shore Plaza in Braintree is hosting the “Heart Gallery” through Feb. 22, an exhibit of 24 portraits of youths in state foster care who are seeking adoption. Photographers have donated their time and talent to create the exhibit, which highlights the need for adoption, said Lisa Funaro, executive director of the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, which creates the gallery that travels across the state. Since 2005, the agency has featured more than 250 children, ages 3 to 16, and nearly half of those children have been placed in permanent adoptive families, Funaro said. For more information, call 617-542-3678 or visit www.mareinc.org.

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Elizabeth Shea  of Kingston was named commercial operations manager for Whitman-based Mutual Bank. She has 15 years of banking experience, according to the bank’s CEO, Glen S. White, and has a bachelor of arts in business management from Curry College in Milton. . . . James Cameron  of Quincy was honored by his alma mater recently when Eastern Nazarene College presented him with its Lifetime Service Award. Cameron, class of 1951, is a historian who has been a professor at the college for more than 60 years, and is the author of 10 books. The Cameron Center at Eastern Nazarene College is named in his honor. . . . Physician Valentina DaCunha  has joined Southcoast Physicians Group in Wareham, and is accepting patients. She received her medical degree from Rostov-on-Don Medical State University in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, and completed her residency in anesthesiology at Rostov City General Hospital and a residency in family medicine at St. Francis Hospital in Delaware. . . . Victor Pricolo  was named chief of general surgery at Southcoast Health System, which includes Tobey Hospital in Wareham. He is a surgeon with Southcoast General Surgery, a practice of Southcoast Physicians Group. In his new role, Pricolo leads the general surgery program while maintaining his clinical duties. He is also leading the development of a systemwide program for general surgery and the creation of a colorectal center.

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