Tom Meuser, director of the Gerontology Graduate Program at UMSL, received the 2011 David A. Peterson Award for best article from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. (Photo by August Jennewein)

How do you spot an older unsafe driver? As a geriatric professional, many are asked to make a call that could change an individual’s life and mobility with little or no training.

University of Missouri–St. Louis gerontology expert Tom Meuser believes training is the key to making this determination, so much that his recent paper “The American Medical Association Older Driver Curriculum for Health Professionals: Changes in Trainee Confidence, Attitudes & Practice Behavior” has won the 2011 David A. Peterson Award for best article from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Meuser, director of the Gerontology Graduate Program at UMSL, was the lead author on the paper published  in Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, Volume 31, Issue 4, 2010.

The paper looked at 693 professionals three and 12 months after receiving training on how to spot unsafe drivers. Those surveyed showed significant improvements in reported attitudes, confidence and practices, including the adoption of in-office screening techniques, chart documentation of driver safety concerns and transportation alternative planning strategies. The study’s findings suggested that a well-designed, one-time continuing education intervention can enhance health professional confidence and clinical practice concerning driver fitness evaluation and mobility planning.

The award is named after Dr. David A. Peterson, a pioneer in gerontology education. It recognizes excellence in academic gerontology.  It’s given by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, the international leader in advancing education on aging and, the only institutional membership organization devoted primarily to gerontology and geriatrics education since 1974.

The study was co-authored with David Carr, associate professor of medicine and neurology at Washington University in St. Louis;  Cheryl Irmiter, adjunct professor of social work at Loyola University Chicago;  Joanne Schwartzberg, director of aging and community health at American Medical Association in Chicago; and Gudmundur Ulfarsson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík.

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 a member of the Independent Transportation Network America’s Research Group. 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.

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming
Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.