Gerontologist joins ITN America’s research panel

UMSL gerontologist Tom Meuser has been appointed to Independent Transportation Network America’s Research Group.

Ensuring safe mobility for older residents is something Tom Meuser is very passionate about, so having the opportunity to serve on a panel of researchers for an organization dedicated to the same mission is a perfect fit.

Meuser, director of the Gerontology Graduate Program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has been appointed to Independent Transportation Network America’s Research Group. ITN America is a door-through-door transportation service with affiliate branches all over the United States. Members receive dignified transportation in private cars as opposed to senior buses and vans which carry a certain stigma. The local affiliate, ITN St. Charles, was established in 2006.

“I am thrilled to be joining the research panel for such a progressive and well-organized service organization,” said Meuser, a resident of Richmond Heights, Mo. “ITN America is at the cutting edge of translational research concerning mobility transitions in aging. They provide much more than a door-through-door transportation service for those who can no longer drive. ITN provides a complete long-term solution for maintaining personal mobility and independence in advancing age.”

As a member of the scholarly research panel, Meuser will work on various projects looking at ways to improve or enhance the process for participants.

“Members benefit from rides, yes, but also contribute of their time and energy to help others and support important research in this field,” he said. “My first project with ITN will be to study personal characteristics that help make the transition from driving to non-driving mobility more acceptable and even beneficial for older adults.”

ITN America is nonprofit transportation system for aging individuals. ITN provides rides with door-to-door, arm-through-arm service to thousands of seniors nationwide. It’s an innovative solution with unique programs that allow older people to trade their own cars to pay for rides, and enables volunteer drivers to store transportation credits for their own future transportation needs.

Meuser, a clinical psychologist, is an expert on loss and grief in aging and dementia, coping and communication issues in dementia care giving, the impact of aging and dementia on functional capacity – driving ability and mobility – educational program development and evaluation and psychotherapeutic intervention.

He’s currently working on curriculum development work in the area of mobility counseling with Marla Berg-Weger, a professor of social work at Saint Louis University, in efforts to train social service professionals to counsel seniors and their families concerning the driving to non-driving mobility transition.

Since joining UMSL in 2007, he’s created the UMSL Life Review Project allowing senior citizen volunteers to sit down with students in the Gerontology Graduate Program and record stories of their lives. Participants are asked about their lives and to recall memories and events. The interviews are videotaped and edited, and the participants receive free copies to share with family and friends.

Additionally, he’s received grant funding for research from the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Institute on Aging, the State of Missouri’s Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders Research Program, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, the National Center on Senior Transportation, Easter Seals and the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Meuser earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from UMSL. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

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