Have you ever considered what you would do without access to the transportation you use everyday? How would you keep up with your daily routine? Could you walk to a bus stop? Could you afford to take a taxi or Uber or Lyft on a daily basis? Who would you turn to for help?
While, for many of us, these questions are merely hypothetical, for many seniors, they are an all too real part of everyday life. For older adults who rely primarily on public transportation, getting to a single doctor’s appointment can take all day. In the icy winter months especially, this means appointments get missed, prescriptions can’t be picked up, and groceries have to stretch further, all because of a lack of access to reliable transportation.
In fact, with 8.4 million seniors currently depending on others for transportation, it is one of the biggest concerns for seniors living alone in the community.
What can you do to help the elderly loved ones in your life gain access to vital transportation?
Fortunately, there are transportation options available in your area. And doing just a little research, can make a big difference in the life of the elderly people you know. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is a good place to start your search for transportation resources.
Keep in mind that transportation options will vary depending on where your loved one lives and on her particular physical needs. For example, in Montgomery County there are relatively many options including buses, rail service, vans, taxis, ride-share programs, and even volunteer drivers. But even if you don’t live in an urban center, like the DC Metro area, there are options to explore.
Here is an overview with helpful resources:
- Public transit/fixed route service: Public transit systems provide bus and rail services along established routes with set schedules on a non-reservation basis. For older adults and people with disabilities, reduced rate fares and additional transportation services are available. Information about routes, schedules, fares, and special services are available through your public transit agency (in the DC Metro area).
- Paratransit Service (sometimes called “Dial-a-Ride”): The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that public transit systems provide door-to-door service for those who cannot use regular (“fixed-route”) services. Public transit service organizations, like the Metro, provide door-to-door or curbside transportation using mini-buses or vans (typically for transporting fewer than 25 passengers). Paratransit service often requires reservations, but still offers flexibility in terms of scheduling. These services offer reduced fares for older adults and people with disabilities. Contact your local transit office for more information and to apply for these services.
- Travel training: Public transit agencies and local elder care organizations often provide free, hands-on instruction to help older adults learn how to travel safely and independently within the public transit system. Here is a comprehensive guide listing the programs available in Montgomery County, MD. Topics discussed include the best routes to take to reach various destinations, hours of service, the cost of the trip (including available discounts), and how to pay for services (such as fare cards or tokens). Demonstrations on how to ride public buses and trains are provided. Additionally, the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center offers trainings and webinars on their website.
- Door-through-door (escort) services: Some agencies provide drivers or escorts who offer personal, hands-on assistance by helping passengers inside the doors of their residences and their destinations, as needed. The different levels of assistance range from opening doors and providing verbal guidance to physical support. Contact a local elderly care agency or your state’s affiliate of the Independent Transportation Network of America to find out how to access this service in your area.
- Volunteer driver programs (sometimes called “Share-a-Ride” programs): Local faith-based and nonprofit organizations often collect a network of volunteers who offer transportation for shopping, medical appointments, recreational activities, etc. In most cases, one-way, round-trip, and multi-stop rides are available on a reservation basis. These programs are provided free or for a minimal cost, usually by donation or through membership dues. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to find out more.
- Private Taxi Service: Traditional taxi services or private companies like Uber provide passengers with a ride between locations of their choice. Trips can be scheduled in advance or on the spot. Note that not all taxis are wheelchair accessible or meet ADA standards; so be sure to inquire with local taxi providers. Fares are charged per mile or per minute on top of a base fee for each trip, and may be payable through a transportation voucher program. These services tend to be the most expensive.
- Transportation voucher program: Area agencies on aging, aging and disabilities resources centers, and other social service organizations often provide fare assistance programs that enable qualified people (usually economically disadvantaged older adults or persons with disabilities) to purchase vouchers for transportation services from participating transportation providers, which can include public transportation, volunteer programs, or taxis and other private agencies. Applications for these programs are required. Participants are responsible for reserving and securing the services they need.
In addition, some communities have mobility managers who can guide you and your elderly loved one through the labyrinth of transportation resources and services that are available. Mobility managers know the community-wide transportation service network and understand how it operates. Their main job is to assist consumers in choosing the best options to meet their individual travel needs. Contact your local elder care organization or public transit agency to determine whether a mobility manager is available in your area.
At PBE Help, we support elderly individuals who want the freedom to age independently at home. Access to reliable transportation obviously plays a huge role in our clients’ ability to maintain their independence. Unfortunately, none of the above transportation options are equipped to help in an emergency situation. That’s why in addition to finding transportation solutions for your elderly loved ones, equipping them with PBE’s Safe At Home or Safe Anywhere emergency safety service will fill-in any gaps.
Both you and your elderly loved ones will sleep easier knowing that everyone’s transportation and emergency safety needs are taken care of. PBE Help has got you covered! Contact us today!