Transportation a major issue for community's older population

2014-08-18T00:00:00Z 2014-09-10T17:14:21Z Transportation a major issue for community's older populationBy Adina Wingate For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Let’s just jump in with an obvious statement.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to aging, asking questions about growing older, and preparing for elderhood.

Sustaining physical health through daily exercise and good food choices, nurturing our emotional wellbeing, plotting and managing short and long term finances, and knowing where to go to connect with community services that are affordable and accessible seem to be prevalent thoughts.

We aspire to live a long and healthy life, and imagine that we will age well, with dignity and independence.

Like many baby boomers, learning to drive a car and the privilege of owning a car as a young adult were rites of passage. As we age, the ability to get around — driving or being driven — becomes a core tenet of a way to be independent and connected to the community.

What happens when a person can no longer drive due to physical or cognitive changes or a disability?

More than half of our community’s nondrivers who are at least 65 years old, stay home on any given day partially because they lack transportation options, a recent PCOA report found.

A reliable ride is a top need for many older and nondriving adults. Financial costs are another concern. These factors can lead to isolation and disconnection.

How we can be helpful means realizing that far too many older people are isolated and living on the economic margins. It may mean reaching out to a homebound neighbor. PCOA’s Neighbors Care program promotes volunteers who assist their neighbors. Family Caregiver Services gives older adult and family caregivers a confidential place to sort out issues, discuss options, create a plan and practical solutions, in-home assistance is guided by Care Coordinators, including ways to access affordable, reliable transportation.

The positive outcomes of reconnecting include social support, being more physically active, completing activities of daily living safely, and living with a renewed semblance of independence.

There is no question that our community is participating in a new chapter that not only establishes new modes to make connections but with the start of the modern streetcar and the larger ongoing conversations about transportation regional plans.

The next chapter of multimodal transportation also features alternative ways to ensure that nondriving adults of all ages have affordable access to car services, including the new local chapter of iTN America, offering a low-cost alternative to older adults who should no longer be behind the wheel.

Today, iTNAmerica affiliates exist in 15 states, offering thousands of rides every week.

The iTNTucson model offers a lower cost than a taxi. It’ a direct door-to-door service. To learn more about the program, call 209-1645 or go to itngreatertucson.org.

Now, iTNTucson is hoping to sign up more volunteers willing to give their time to help someone get to the grocery store or the doctor’s office.

Through PCOA’s Neighbors Care program,the rides are free to the NCA group residents, and the benefits of the personal contact also help reduce social isolation.

Grassroots networks of volunteers help other home-bound and nondriving neighbors every day and they make up a unique network of 18 different programs operating as the Neighbors Care Alliance, a partnership that was started by Pima Council on Aging more than ten years ago.

Adina Wingate is Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Pima Council on Aging. Her occasional column will address age-related topics.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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