Making a Difference: Asa's Direct Outreach to Elders

Article excerpt

From its inception, the American Society on Aging has been committed to translating research into practice so that ASA members will have the latest information to apply in their service to older adults and their families. This commitment is the driving force behind many of ASA's grant-funded special projects now out in the field. In this issue of Aging Today, I want to highlight a few of the programs where ASA and its members are working to make a concrete difference in the quality of life for older adults.

DRIVEWELL

DriveWell, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), addresses the critical issue of older driver wellness and safety. It is a comprehensive information program designed to:

* Promote community conversations that can lead to increased driver safety and more transportation choices for adults ages 65 and older;

* Encourage older drivers to change when and how they drive;

* Prompt older adults to use alternative forms of transportation;

* Stimulate communities to assess the need for and, if necessary, offer transportation choices more responsive to the needs of older adults.

At the core of the program is the DriveWell Toolkit developed by ASA as a standalone program on older driver safety and mobility that everyone can adapt to their community. The tool kit is being distributed through a network of national experts, who are conducting train-the-trainer programs on its use in every region of the United States.

To date, ASA has held 14 train-thetrainer programs that have educated 217 trainers from Florida to Hawaii. At present, ASA has collected more than ioo work plans from these leaders. These plans include presentations at local civic groups and churches, community driving fairs, law-enforcement training sessions on how to present community programs for older adults, and instructional programs to show senior centers how to set up a series of programs for older drivers.

ASA has posted a calendar on its website of upcoming programs designed to inform professionals and agencies working with older adults or loved ones about transportation and safe driving, and about the Drive Well materials and how to use them. Visit the site at www.asaging .org/drivewell.

CARFIT

Taking issues of older driver safety directly to older drivers is the focus of CarFit, a collaboration between ASA, AARP, the American Automobile Association (AAA), and the American Occupational Therapy Association. CarFit offers older drivers a convenient, nonthreatening way to check out how well their cars are tailored to them. Participants also receive information and materials for community-specific resources and activities that could make their cars "fit" them better, enhance their safety as drivers or increase their mobility in the community.

The program uses a trained team of volunteers and occupational therapists who work side by side with each participant who requests a car check at a scheduled CarFit event. Using a checklist developed by ASA, the volunteers examine such items as correct use of safety belts, mirror placement, seat position, ease of pedal use, control and signal use, and other factors that might be affected by physical, sensory or cognitive changes associated with aging. Drivers are provided on-the-spot advice on how to adopt any indicated changes. If appropriate, CarFit team members recommend that the older person make an appointment with an occupational therapist for a follow-up visit.

CarFit is currently being pilot-tested in io areas of the United States by teams from AARP chapters and AAA clubs. …