June 21, 2018
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Reflective orange vest helps seniors to be visible to motorists

By Carol Higgins Taylor

Is it just me or is winter coming at us at breakneck speed? Driving home in the dark at 4:30 is depressing. But what’s worse is not being seen by drivers when you’re walking in the street or even retrieving mail from a roadside mailbox.
Seems every year we hear people being hit by cars because the motorists simply cannot see them until it’s too late. This is a tragedy that can be prevented, not just by drivers slowing down and resisting the practice of distracted driving, for example, eating or using the phone, but also by the pedestrians being more visible.
Eastern Area Agency on Aging’s Vest Dressed for Safety program makes reflective vests available to senior citizens to increase their visibility. The vests are lightweight, orange mesh with front and back panels held together by elastic strips. The front panels fasten together with Velcro which is helpful to seniors with arthritic hands.
“As an agency, we are committed to the safety of every senior,” said Noëlle Merrill, executive director of EAAA. “We also advocate for them to remain independent and active. With daylight hours so short now, people are out and about in the dark, when it is much more difficult for motorists to see them.”
Because Maine is so rural, oftentimes there are no sidewalks so people are forced to walk on the side of the road, or must retrieve their mail from mailboxes that are across the road from their homes. And the availability of streetlights in rural Maine is iffy at best. For some seniors, hearing loss and changes in their peripheral vision may make it harder for them to hear or see a vehicle approaching, added Merrill.
Wearing a reflective vest, which can make a person visible hundreds of feet away, gives a motorist plenty of time to maneuver safely and it is hoped avoid hitting a pedestrian. And it is not just roads that cause a problem. Parking lots can pose a danger at night. Motorists backing up may not see a person in dark clothing crossing their path behind them. If you are out holiday shopping in the evening, before you leave the store, don the vest. They are flexibly enough to carry with you in a purse and easy to put on.
Since the program’s inception a few years ago, EAAA has distributed more than 500 vests. Reflective vests have always been available through local retailers but Merrill thinks it will be easier for seniors to get one from EAAA instead of shopping around.
“If getting a vest becomes complicated, with going from store to store, people may not bother,” said Merrill. “EAAA wants to make safety easy for them. And we want seniors to get into the habit of wearing a reflective vest whenever they are out and about — day and night.”
So don’t curse the darkness, as an ancient Chinese proverb advises, just be ready for it. Get your vest today and venture out with confidence.
We ask for a $10 donation to help cover our costs. Please send a check for $10 to EAAA, 450 Essex Street, Bangor, ME 04401, Attention: Vest Dressed for Safety. Be sure to include your mailing address and size: S/M, L/XL or 2XL/3XL, and we will send your vest to you. One hundred percent of your donation goes toward the cost of the vest. You may also purchase a vest online at www.eaaa.org under the Donate Now button. Just select Vest Dresses for Safety.
“And we never want anyone going without a vest due to finances so we have sponsorships available for those who may not be able to afford to pay the $10,” said Merrill.
Be safe, be seen. Get a vest.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at EAAA. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, or log on EAAA.org.

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