When reviewing cities most conducive to the preferences of older adults, AARP has outlined that a livable community should be one that has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options.
Cost-effective transportation options shoudl be available to senior citizens.
Data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) suggests that Americans keep driving themselves later than in early generations. Per the FHA, 93 percent of men and 83 percent of women over age 50 are behind the wheel at least part of the time. For people over age 80 the percentages decrease to 78 percent for men and 52 percent for women.
To help maintain driver safety, there are some excellent online and in class driver refresher classes sponsored by AARP and the American Automobile Association (AAA). Please see links below for schedules and locations.
It can be reassuring for many older adults to read statistics such as those noted above. However, it would be neglectful to not acknowledge that regardless of refresher courses or even more formal driving rehabilitation programs, driving cessation may be the only option for a large number of older adults.
This is often a result of some age-related issues including vision, mobility and cognitive challenges. Even when the decision to stop driving is agreed upon by all stakeholders, turning in the keys can leave the newly nondriver feeling quite disconnected from their community. Therefore, it is very important that the elder be familiarized with transportation options most suited to their needs and preferences soon after the driving discussion has been initiated.
Local and national discussion of the need to improve and increase accessible and cost effective transportation is a move in the right direction although gaps do remain. For example, depending on geographical areas, some local senior centers offer transportation services to help community members with trips to medical or nonmedical appointments. Also, a number of public transportation services also offer door-to-door transportation services to individuals who are unable to successfully use regular bus service routes. Some home-care agencies along with private transportation companies also offer fee for service transportation. Veteran’s who receive medical care at their VA Medical center can receive transportation assistance to their appointments.
Some recent innovations to help maintain feelings of independence for those who are now longer driving are the rise in ridesharing services such Uber and Lyft. Unlike the traditional taxi service that is reserved through calling by phone, these companies require the user to schedule a ride using a smartphone app. To help minimize barriers for people who do not have a smartphone, some companies such as GoGoGrandparent, can serve to help the rider use this service.
For example, when consumers call this company, for a nominal fee, the operator can order the car service, inform the elder when the driver will arrive, share specifics of the car, and pick up time.
Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission: www.mvrpc.org/transportation
Veterans Transportation Services: www.va.gov/HEALTHBENEFITS/vtp/
RTA paratransit: www.i-riderta.org/how-to-ride/accessibility
AAA driver refresher course: http://seniordriving.aaa.com
Marci Vandersluis is a licensed social worker and has a master’s degree in gerontology. She is employed as a care manager assisting older adults in the community connect with needed services. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.