Penn State DuBois Students Keep Seniors Safely on the Road

Retiree Hank Webster is guided through the CarFit Clinic by Occupational Therapy Assistant student Colleen Prechtl. (Photo provided by Steve Harmic)

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

The students collaborated with PennDOT, AAA, and AARP to offer a CarFit clinic at the Best Western Inn and Conference Center in DuBois.  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 many of the vehicles, including the gas and brake pedals, steering wheel, seat, seat belt, and mirrors to achieve optimum safety and comfort.

“The population of people over 65 is growing at an astronomical rate, and this is about helping those people keep their independence,” said PennDOT Safety Press Officer Dawn Walls.  “So much of our culture is about being mobile, and if the situation arises where we’re not mobile, we loose a lot of our identity. This program helps senior citizens stay safe on the road, for a longer period of time.”

One driver who turned out for the clinic was Hank Webster, a retired Penn State DuBois professor.  He said, “They’re covering things that seniors definitely should be aware of.  I observe other drivers, and I have seen others that are apparently not well fitted to their cars, and that can be dangerous.”    

For the OTA students participating in the clinic, it provided valuable real-world experience that they can carry with them into their careers. 

“When I get a job as an occupational therapy assistant, if I have an older client who is still driving, I can help them adjust their car to fit them by using what I’ve learned here,” said student Colleen Prechtl from St. Marys. 

“Students involved in the CarFit event have the opportunity to practice skills they have been learning about in the classroom,” said Penn State DuBois OTA instructor LuAnn Demi.  “Students learn how older drivers value being able to drive just as much as younger drivers do, but often they have some difficulties due to age-related changes.  It’s a valuable learning experience for everyone involved.”

Students had to be certified by AAA and the AARP to participate in the program, so in addition to the knowledge they gained, they also earned nationally recognized certification.

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