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Seton Hall OT Students To Help Elder Drivers Find A Better Fit Behind The Wheel

April 16, 2010

Occupational Therapy students from Seton Hall University’s School of Health and Medical Sciences (SHMS) will stage a new driver safety initiative on Wednesday, April 21, at Winchester Gardens in Maplewood, NJ. Residents of the retirement community will line up their vehicles to take part in CarFit, an innovative national program designed to give a quick comprehensive check on how well an older driver and his or her vehicle “fit.” The event also will provide participating motorists with community traffic safety resources intended to keep them driving safely longer. Developed in collaboration with the American Automobile Association (AAA), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the CarFit program was created by the San Francisco-based American Society on Aging with the goal of keeping senior citizens safe on the road. “I like to think of CarFit as a wellness program for the older driver,” said Professor Meryl Picard, MSW, OTR, of SHMS’ Department of Occupational Therapy. “People address the regular maintenance of their cars without thinking twice. Since cars remain the ultimate symbol of adult independence and quality of life in the United States, it makes sense to keep your vehicle in optimal condition. Yet, older drivers do not necessarily think about how optimally they ‘fit’ their current vehicle or whether minor adjustments in items such as side-view mirrors or seat height might improve their driving safety.” During the CarFit event, OT students will apply training methods and practices learned in the classroom to complete a 12-point checklist for each driver, including the following: Is the person positioned correctly in the driver’s seat? Can the person reach the pedals easily? Does the person know how to adjust mirrors properly or have the flexibility to use the mirrors? AAA representatives and SHMS faculty members will be on site to assist the OT students in their CarFit check-ups. Occupational therapists are uniquely skilled to discuss with seniors ways through which they can maintain and improve aspects related to their driving health. Seton Hall’s occupational therapy students will provide information to participants addressing individual needs, including information about local community resources on exercise, nutrition and other programs to help keep them safe on the road. “Occupational therapists have engaged in pre-driver evaluations in rehabilitation settings for individuals with disabilities for decades, including vision screenings,” Picard said. “We are very concerned about health promotion, illness prevention and wellness. A program that focuses on educating older adults to increase driver safety and ‘fit’ within their vehicle is a logical extension of our skills. Occupational therapists have a holistic, unique perspective on the physical, cognitive and emotional concerns of individuals across the lifespan.” In past CarFit events, 37 percent of participants had at least one “red flag,” considered a high-priority safety issue, with 18 percent having two or more. Occupational therapists can demonstrate devices and techniques to address these concerns. Mature drivers also can check with their local AAA club and AARP chapter, which provide driver refresher courses for older road users or occupational therapy driving evaluation programs for individualized assessments and recommendations. To learn more about SHMS’ Occupational Therapy program and the CarFit event, contact Department Secretary Debra Olszewski at (973) 761-7145 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For more information about the CarFit program, visit And to learn how working with an occupational therapist can help you function better at home as well as in your can, see our article at //