(LONG BEACH, April 9, 2008) — Occupational therapists from throughout the country will participate today in an Automobile Club of Southern California CarFit training in Long Beach so they can take the program for older drivers back to their own community, according to the Auto Club and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The AOTA is hosting its national expo in Southern California in April.
CarFit helps senior drivers learn about how the effects of aging change the way they fit in their vehicle and how their driving can be affected. The training will take place at the AOTA 88th Annual Conference & Expo from 1:30-5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9, at the Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802.
During the outdoor training sessions, some occupational therapists will play the role of senior drivers while others learn how to “fit” a car to a senior. After the training, occupational therapists will be able to participate in CarFit, a free program for seniors 65 and older. The program consists of 12-point, 15-minute checklist on the driver and the car, which includes a seat-belt adjustment, foot pedals, vision and mirrors and other aspects to ensure that senior drivers are “correctly fitted” to their vehicles.
CarFit provides information on ways a driver can maintain and strengthen their driving health and offers community resources where seniors can go for further evaluation regarding exercise, nutrition and use of adaptive devices.
The CarFit program is designed to give a quick, comprehensive check by occupational therapists, senior living specialists and automotive experts on how well senior drivers and their vehicles work together. CarFit was developed by the American Society on Aging in partnership with AAA, AARP, the American Occupational Therapy Association and AOTA.
“The Auto Club believes that people should be able to keep driving as long as they want to – if they can do so safely,” said the Auto Club’s Anita Lorz, community programs team lead.
Lorz noted that age affects vision, flexibility, and strength, range of motion and even size and height. “Unless seniors make adjustments, those changes may make older drivers less comfortable and reduce control behind the wheel. CarFit gives older adults the tools to help them stay on the road safely,” she said.
The number of seniors in California is growing rapidly. In 1990, people over 65 years old represented 10 percent of California’s population. “In 1995, 68 percent of seniors were licensed drivers. It is reasonable to expect that as the population ages, this percentage will increase,” said Lorz. “If 75 percent of seniors are licensed in 2025, that will equal 6.5 million licensed drivers.”California has no upper driving age limit and state law prohibits the Department of Motor Vehicles from using age alone to require a behind-the-wheel test at renewal. However, motorists 70 or older must renew their license in person rather than through the mail.