Occupational Therapy Grad Students Help Area Seniors
Seton Hall students practice the University's mission of servant leadership in many ways. When they have the opportunity to participate hands-on in the local community, they gain a sense of pride by making a difference in the lives of others, and they embrace the opportunity to put many of their classroom-learned skills to real-word use.
An example of these community partnerships is the annual "CarFit" program. Each year, the School of Health and Medical Sciences' Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) teams up with AAA to offer senior drivers the opportunity to increase their safety and comfort when driving their vehicles. A recent CarFit event took place at the Crane's Mill Continuing Care Retirement Community in West Caldwell, NJ, where 33 OT graduate students and a mobility expert from AAA took 29 older drivers through a 12-point checklist with their vehicles. They recommended minor adjustments to improve the drivers' comfort and safety within their vehicles, including the demonstration of helpful products, such as leg lifters and gas-cap wrenches.
Assistant professor Meryl Picard, MSW, PhD, OTR, helps to organize the annual CarFit event. "Older adults are the fastest growing population of drivers in the United States. Many older adults living in New Jersey want to continue to drive as long as possible. Driving represents continued independence and allows them to take care of desired and needed community errands and activities," Picard says. "Training Seton Hall occupational therapy students to perform the CarFit checklist and the occupational therapy check-out provide a valuable service to the community and increase the students' awareness of the driving needs of older adults."
CarFit was developed by AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association partnership in response to the nation's increasing number of older drivers. By 2030, there will be an estimated 58.9 million people age 65 and older - or 1 in 5 people. These older drivers are expected to represent 1 in 4 licensed drivers at that time.
Occupational therapists are keenly aware that personal mobility is critical for healthy aging, but as individuals' bodies change as they age, ill-fitting vehicles can make it uncomfortable and unsafe to drive. Additionally, due to fragility, older drivers, even though they are among the safest drivers, have the highest crash death rate per mile of everyone except teenagers. CarFit is a tool that occupational therapists can use to help keep seniors safer behind the wheel.
Learn more about the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program at Seton Hall University's School of Health and Medical Sciences.