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‘Young’ Driver welcomes its oldest ever pupil – aged 98

Pre-17 driving school makes wish come true for Don, thanks to ‘Together We Can’ programme at Yorkare Homes, Beverley Parklands Care Home

He’ll turn 100 next year, but that doesn’t stop Don Mitchell dreaming of getting back behind the wheel.

Don, a resident of Beverley Parklands Care home, was heartbroken to give up his licence at age 94 as a safety precaution. He had been driving for 50 years.

But thanks to the Together We Can initiative at Yorkare Homes, which aims to make the dreams of residents and staff come true, Don is getting back behind the wheel again.

Young Driver is a driving scheme for under 17s. It runs at private venues across the country, offering those who are not legally able to drive experience behind the wheel. The focus is on safety, but delivered in a fun and engaging way. Pupils typically learn to steer, change gear, brake, tackle junctions and roundabouts and even parallel park – and research shows the lessons reduce the accident rate for newly qualified drivers.

However, the scheme has no upper age limit – anyone who wants to get behind the wheel is welcome to book an experience. Although, of the 1.3 million lessons given over the last 14 years, Don will be the eldest pupil to date!

Don attended the scheme’s venue at the Defence School of Transport at Leconfield near Beverley, where he drove a Vauxhall Corsa. The cars are dual controlled and a fully qualified instructor is in the passenger seat – not that Donald needed any assistance.

Born in Tower Hamlets, Don joined the Navy as a communications boy, before working his way up to radio and radar technician. After stints on the Fleet Destroyer HMS Matchless, HMS Collingwood, and HMS Belfast he found out he had Tuberculosis during a routine medical check. After nine months in recovery he was cured and discharged to civilian life. Don was married to Marg, who was from Hull, and they had a son who became a teacher and now lives in Australia.

In civilian life, he was able to get a job with Decca Radar doing a similar job to his one in the Navy. Don and Marg bought a house in Garden Village before they moved to Swanland and they eventually settled in Beverley after falling in love with the town after many visits.

Don moved to Parklands Care Home in 2022.

Don commented: “I was delighted to be able to get behind the wheel again, I was heartbroken to give up my licence. My favourite ever car that I drove was a Morris Minor, it was a wonderful car and I could do all of the servicing on it myself. Which meant I eventually sold the car for more than I had purchased it for! I think I still drove quite safely at 94 but there comes a time when it has to be given up. It was great to check I hadn’t forgotten all of my driving skills – and, like riding a bike, it all comes back to you. I hadn’t realised how much cars have changed since I lost owned and drove one. The steering wheel is harder to turn and the gear stick is harder to hold. It was nice to see the youngsters just starting to learn as well. And my advice to them is always stay inside the speed limit! There’s an old saying ‘Rules are for wise men to follow and fools to break’.”

Sue Stait, marketing manager at Young Driver, said: “We have had a 92 year old have a lesson with us before – but Don takes the crown as our oldest ever pupil at 98. Because our lessons run on private property we can give individuals the opportunity to be behind the wheel who wouldn’t otherwise get the chance. We’ve even taught blind people before, who just want to be able to experience what it’s like. We’re so pleased we could help Don’s wish come true thanks to the wonderful scheme Yorkare Homes have in place.”

Nicola Anderson, marketing manager from Yorkare Homes, added: “ Our ‘Together We Can’ initiative that we rolled out for 2023 across all our 11 Care Homes, has been so successful and rewarding for all involved. We have been helping and supporting both our residents and employees feel that they can achieve things that they didn’t think were possible and aim to make these happen. Together we can engage both residents and our teams to make our homes a fun and positive place to live and work. Our ultimate aim is to always support our residents and employees to feel valued and to have this amazing opportunity to support Don with his wish is fundamentally what our initiative was all about, helping Don achieve things he didn’t think were possible!”

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