If you are hoping that this article will point you toward a menu or cookie cutter program that will solve your transportation needs, you are out of luck. As far as I can tell, there ain’t any such animal.
Autonomy in Transportation=Independence
Maintaining mobility is crucial to the health and wellbeing of older people. One of the strongest predictors of premature death among the elderly is social isolation.
The primary reason seniors are anxious about the possibility of not driving in the future is a fear of the loss of independence. Autonomy in
transportation and other decisions is closely associated with most seniors’ concept of independence and aging with dignity. Access to transportation is as important a quality of life issue as are health and income.
Senior Transportation is Local and Personal
ElderAuthority has written extensively about older drivers with articles on how to keep driving longer, when it is time to give up the keys, and how to have the driving discussion with a parent or partner. Even if you are one of the bright, fully cognizant centenarians who never misses a beat, you should plan for the contingency of losing your ability to drive temporarily or permanently. If you accept this possibility, you can make a plan, file it away with your other important papers, and dust it off if you ever need it.
Resources for Senior Transportation Planning
In researching for this article I discovered that there are places on the internet (to be covered in a follow-up article) that will provide you with a sort of data dump of things you need to know to get help with transportation for the elderly. The national organizations are focused on providing a resource to help out seniors who can no longer drive, but they do not do the hard work for you.
After you go cross-eyed sifting through the mounds of data on the national sites, you can do a search of regional services. A number of communities have been proactive in developing programs. Others reference disorganized, out-of-date, and incomplete lists of services. Few communities offer well-organized transportation programs.
You Have to Do It Yourself
I am as lazy as the next person and will procrastinate endlessly to postpone doing something that is out of my comfort zone. Doing a transportation plan is actually pretty easy, but few of us have done one before. It is in the interest of families, caregivers, and seniors alike to get something in place. It may not be perfect, but you will be glad you have it should a crisis arise.
The task of making a transportation plan is daunting because there are few ready-made programs. This aspect of aging-in-place is in its infancy. You are going to have to get involved. Here is what I suggest as a starting point.
Identify Transportation that You Can Hire on Short Notice
- Search locally in the phone book or online for three local taxi/car services.
- Choose companies that you have noticed in your neighborhood.
- Gather the following information:
Identify the Specific Social Service Agencies for Your Area
Research neighborhood and regional social service agencies such as the Area Agency on Aging, Medicaid, and the Visiting Nurse Association. Find out which have transportation programs and gather the following information on as many as you can contact:Transportation Service Name: Contact: Phone Number: Cost: Services Provided: Request How Far in Advance: Eligibility (age, income, city of residence, disability):
Select several of the ones that best fit your needs and sign up.
Identify Options in your Neighborhood
Call local senior centers and ask about programs and transportation to and from those programs. Talk to friends, neighbors, and anyone who is caring for an elderly relative. Ask them who they use and any tips they may have for getting around without a car. Don’t forget to check out public transportation.
Talk with Family Members
Once you have done your own homework, talk to members of your family about getting their help to finalize a plan. The more work you have done in advance, the happier they will be to help fill in the gaps. You will all feel better knowing your affordable options, when you can use free services, how much you need to budget, and when family members need to be on call.