NANTICOKE — Many senior citizen fairs are filled with tables lined with pamphlets about health and wellness. But the AAA-Mid Atlantic Senior Safety and Health Fair held Wednesday was that — and more.
As the senior population continues to increase in Pennsylvania, AAA spokeswoman Jenny Robinson said, “senior driving safety is a serious concern.”
Pennsylvania has more than 1.7 million drivers 65 and older, nearly 20 percent of the state’s total number of licensed drivers, and the number grows larger each year, she said. And with that comes an increase in senior citizen highway deaths.
There were 276 senior driver fatalities in in the state last year, an increase of 32 deaths from 2011, and about 21 percent of the state’s total of 1,310 highway fatalities, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Some of those crashes are preventable, and others are tied to medications that seniors are taking.
Seniors at the fair could participate in a computer lab introducing them to the aaa.com/seniordriving website, and showing them how to use Roadwise Rx to look up their medications and find out the potential effects on driving.
Patricia Hall, of Kingston, was among those interested in learning more about the website. She takes about a dozen medications and, though she hasn’t had any issues with driving, the 62-year-old said that as she continues to get new medications, she has concern about the side effects.
More than 80 percent of drivers age 65 and older regularly take medications, yet only half have talked to a medical professional about possible safety issues related to driving, Robinson said.
Developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Roadwise Rx is an online tool that details common side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications. The tool generates personalized feedback on how medications, herbal supplements and foods, and their interactions with each other, can impact safety behind the wheel. The site is free to all seniors and their families at http://www.aaa.com/roadwiserx.
In addition to this tool, the fair also offered seniors flu and shingles shots, hearing screenings, glaucoma testing and lunch. A CarFit program, in which mature drivers can get help adjusting their vehicles to fit their physical needs, was part of the four-hour expo — as was a child safety seat demo for seniors that may transport grandchildren. About 200 people attended the event, according to AAA.
“We want our fair to offer more than just passing by a table and picking up a brochure or a trinket,” said Robinson. “While that’s a good thing, too, we planned the event to be interactive.”