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Two students work with a senior citizen in a blue car. Students checked if the seniors needed adaptive devices and reviewed seat belt fit, line of sight, headrest height, ability to reach the pedals and more.

Through CarFit Event, OT Students Help Keep Seniors Safe on the Road

On a bright summer morning, 20 senior citizens pulled into Ravenhill campus for Jefferson’s inaugural CarFit event. The educational program run by the University’s occupational therapy department and sponsored nationwide by AAA, AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association offers older adults the chance to check how well their vehicles fit them.

The occupational therapy practitioner (OTP) students ran through a lengthy list with Anne Hagele, one of the participating residents from nearby East Falls Village. They checked if she needed any adaptive devices to get in and out her Toyota Prius, as well as reviewed seat belt fit, line of sight, headrest height, ability to reach the pedals and more to help keep her safe and comfortable on the road.

“It’s not a driving evaluation, and we’re not taking people’s licenses away,” stresses OT professor Monique Chabot. “We’re making sure your car fits you properly. It also allows older adults to discuss driving in a non-threatening space; however, it opens up that conversation so when they start having trouble on the road, they might not be afraid to get the resources they need like driving rehabilitation.”

To qualify to be a CarFit technician, the 18 OTP students completed a series of online modules and a hands-on lab, says Chabot, noting the event gives them valuable real-world experience and further shows the University’s commitment to community outreach.

Student Bryan Johnston, who hopes to work with seniors after he graduates, found the July 25 program beneficial.

“The aging population—and adults in general—often aren’t aware of how their car should be set up,” he says. “It’s a good opportunity to help drivers on the road.”

Student Colleen Blaker also enjoyed going through the CarFit program and interacting with the seniors. “As a future practitioner, learning these skills will be invaluable to me,” she says.

The review with Blaker and other OTP students revealed that Hagele should lower her steering wheel and headrest a bit. As a result of the changes, she says she felt more confident driving and thanked the Jefferson team for the tips.

Her husband, Ken Kolodziej, followed right behind in his Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 20-minute evaluation showed he needed to tweak his side mirrors to better see blind spots. Kolodziej, too, expressed his gratitude to the students.

“They’re wonderful,” he says.

Two students work with a senior citizen in a car. The CarFit event gave students valuable real-world experience, says OT professor Monique Chabot.