M.O.T. Students Help Senior Citizens Become 'CarFit'

Students in Radford University's Master of Occupational Therapy program had an opportunity recently to apply what they have learned in the classroom by helping older drivers to strengthen their skills and make sure their vehicles are "fit" for safety and comfort.

CarFit is a national program to help older individuals drive safer and longer. The Sept. 7 event in which RU M.O.T. students participated was at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center as part of the hospital's Senior Appreciation Day.

RU M.O.T. Chair Douglas Mitchell and Instructor Laura Miear coordinated the program with Carilion Occupational Therapist Kim Umpenhour. Participants were RU Instructor Sheila Krajnik, six members of the 2012 M.O.T. graduating class and eight members of the 2014 class.

"As our bodies age, they experience many subtle changes in range of motion, flexibility, vision and even height," Miear said. "This event assists mature drivers in making sure their cars continue to be properly 'fit' to them to increase overall comfort and safety when driving."

MOT student with client

Lauren Clary consults with client Cynthia Creighton to make sure she can properly reach her brake pedal. Clary was among students working with area seniors as part of the CarFit Program at Carilion New River Medical Center.

A 12-item checklist for drivers was used for the program's seven enrolled participants, including the safest positioning for the steering wheel, head restraint, seat and mirrors to enhance visibility, safety in the event of an accident and access to all vehicle controls.

"The occupational therapists problem-solved with the participants to resolve any areas in which the car was not optimally fit to the driver," Miear said. "Adaptations were reviewed, including swivel seats, handy bars, panoramic mirrors, wedge cushions, easy-reach seatbelt handles and key holders. Any alterations made to the car were made by the driver after education from the technician or O.T."

Miear said an essential part of the mission of the MOT program at RU is to provide OT services to rural areas, "meeting the needs of underserved populations in our community. This event afforded us the opportunity to do just that, providing much-needed OT assistance to our local hospital by supplying trained O.T.s and technicians."

CarFit is sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Association Inc., American Automobile Association and the American Association of Retired People.

Sep 18, 2012
Bonnie Q. Erickson
(540) 831-5804