DUBOIS – Penn State DuBois Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program students and faculty volunteered their time to help senior citizens stay safe behind the wheel on Friday at DuBois Village Personal Care Home.
The Older Driver Safety Event was a collaborative effort between the faculty and students in the OTA program, administrators at DuBois Village, Brant’s Driving School of Johnstown, and PennDOT.
The event featured several components including a seminar and a “Does Your Car Fit You” program. The “We Need to Talk” seminar offered by Penn State DuBois faculty provided tactics for broaching the sensitive topic of a loved one’s ability to continue driving.
“Does Your Car Fit You” is a program aimed at helping older drivers find ways make their cars “fit” them best. Small adjustments are made to parts of vehicles when needed, including the steering wheel, seat, seat belt, and mirrors to achieve optimum visibility, safety and comfort. The OTA students were trained to administer the program and offer drivers suggestions on any adjustments they may need to make to their cars.
“This helps keep the elderly out in the community and helps them feel more comfortable while traveling,” said student Becca Gherrity of Tyron.
Student Victoria Holben of Brockway added, “This is something you would not see offered anywhere else, and I can see how it would be very useful for people.”
“This helps show people in the community what occupational therapy can do,” said student Betsy Crawford of DuBois.
The program is also useful for the students, who are training for careers in occupational therapy where they’ll work with people in similar ways.
“You get to judge someone’s physical abilities and mental functions, and how they’re able to move,” said Josh Bonante of DuBois. Gherrity added, “It helps us get comfortable talking with and working with people.”
Carolyn Skaggs of DuBois Village helped to organize the event, and was grateful that the OT students participated. She said, “I think it’s wonderful that they were willing to come out and spend time here helping people learn how to stay safe while driving. I also think it’s great that they’re pursuing an education in a field that benefits so many people.”
Skaggs went on to point out the benefits that the “Does Your Car Fit You” program can have for older drivers, and the value of the services the students provided.
“It makes them aware that if they do properly set things like mirrors and seats that they’ll be able to drive more effectively and more safely. They’ll be able to see better and drive better,” Skaggs said.
A driving rehabilitation specialist was also available during the event to provide more detailed information on driving assessments and vehicle modifications.