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Penn State DuBois Students Help Seniors Stay Safe on the Road

Students work with a driver to assure maximum visibility from their car.
Students Colleen Prechtl, at the rear of the car, and Anita Johnston work with a driver to assure their mirrors are properly adjusted and provide maximum visibility. Photo by Lauren White.
7/13/2012 —

Students in the Penn State DuBois Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program recently worked with area senior citizen drivers to assure they are as safe as possible when behind the wheel.

The students collaborated with healthcare professionals at Christ the King Manor Nursing Home in DuBois to offer a CarFit clinic at the facility.  Drivers who attended the clinic learned how to best "fit" in their cars to ensure they are traveling comfortably and safely.  Small adjustments were made to parts of vehicles when needed, including the gas and brake pedals, steering wheel, seat, seat belt, and mirrors to achieve optimum safety and comfort.

"As we age, driving becomes more challenging.  Loss of vision, decreased range of motion, pain, lack of strength and diminished posture all can hinder our abilities behind the wheel," said Trish Hopkins, an occupational therapist at Christ the King Manor who helped to organize the CarFit clinic. "Whether it's specialized seats, mirrors, or techniques, CarFit will show you the tools available to improve your driving experience for years to come."

"This is the third CarFit event Penn State DuBois OTA students have hosted in DuBois in the past year and a half," said Penn State DuBois OTA instructor LuAnn Demi. "To date, approximately 20 OTA students have been trained to be CarFit Technicians.  This is a national certification and the students will be able to use this training in their future careers as OTAs, plus they provide a service to the community while they learn." 

"I love to work with people and this is such a great experience to get hands on education and work with occupational therapists, as well as people from the community," said OTA student Rachel Wells, of Reynoldsville.  "CarFit is a great program because it helps make older adults more aware of their driving environment and makes driving safer and easier."

Another student, Colleen Prechtl of St. Marys agreed saying, "During CarFit we not only get to help seniors to drive longer and safer, but we also receive hands on experience which will benefit our careers as OTA's."

Students were required to be certified by AAA and the AARP to participate in the program the CarFit program.


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