2008-08-27 / Seniors

The Savvy Senior

Transportation Options For Seniors Who No Longer Drive

Dear Savvy Senior:

Where can I find out about alternative transportation options for my 80-year-old mother? She's nearing the point where she needs to give up driving and will need some help getting around.

Yielding Daughter

Dear Yielding:

Alternative transportation options for your mother will depend on where she lives. Here's what you should know.

Growing Concern

With more than 7 million older Americans who no longer drive- a number that is expected to double in the next 25 years- the need for more alternative transportation programs is urgent.

For seniors who no longer drive, community transportation services are an essential link in helping them get to their doctor's appointments, stores, social activities and more. But the problem is that while most urban areas may offer seniors a variety of transportation alternatives, the options may be few to none for those living in suburbs, small towns and rural areas.

Types of transportation

Before you start searching, it's good to know the different types of transportation services that may be available to her. Depending on where she lives, here is a list of potential options.

Family and friends. This is the favorite and most often used alternative for seniors. Get a list of possible candidates as well as their willingness, availability and contact information.

Local transportation programs. These are locally developed programs that are often sponsored by nonprofit organizations or churches. These services may charge a nominal fee or accept donations and often operate with the help of volunteer drivers.

Demand response services. Often referred to as "dial-a-ride" or "elderly and disabled transportation service", these government-funded programs provide door-to-door transportation services by appointment and usually charge a small fee or donation on a per-ride basis. Many use vans and offer accessible services for riders with special needs.

Taxi or car service. These private services offer flexible scheduling but can be expensive. Some taxi/car services may be willing to set up accounts that allow other family members to pay for services and some may offer senior discounts. Be sure to ask.

Private program services. Some hospitals, health clinics, senior centers, adult day centers, malls or other businesses may offer transportation for program participants or customers.

Mass transit. Public transportation (buses, trains, subways, etc.) where available, can also be an affordable option and may offer senior reduced rates.

Where to look

To find out what transportation options are available in your mom's community, your best resource is her nearby Area Agency on Aging. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116, or visit www.eldercare.gov to get the local agency's number. Also check with the department of transportation in her state (www.fhwa.dot.gov/webstate.htm), and the yellow pages in her telephone book under "transportation" or "community services."

When to quit driving

If you and your mom don't see eye-toeye on her driving ability, see if she'd be willing to meet with a driver rehabilitation specialist. These are professionals who can evaluate your mom's ability to operate her vehicle safely, and make recommendations to help keep her safe. To learn more or to locate a specialist in your area, visit www1.aota.org/olderdriver or www.driver-ed.org. Another option is to have her take the AARP Driver Safety Course. www.aarp.org/families/driver_saf ety; 888-227-7669). Also, the "Family Conversations with Older Drivers" Web site at www.thehartford.com/ talkwitholderdrivers is a wonderful informational resource.

Savvy Tip: If there are no transportation services available where your mother lives, take a look at the Beverly Foundation's TurnKey Kit, an online resource that offers "how-to" information on how to get a local transportation program started. Visit www.beverlyfoundation.org or call 626- 792-2292 to learn more.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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