Family Living Focus: Older Drivers – Other ways to get around
In many communities, driving is just one form of transportation. There are plenty of other ways to get around. “Retiring” from driving can feel like a big loss at first, but it does not mean giving up independence.
Your transportation options depend on where you live. Many cities have easily accessible public transportation systems, but not all older adults feel comfortable using them. Rural areas tend to have fewer services than cities and suburbs. A “mobility manager” guides consumers through transportation services. Contact your local area agency on aging or public transit agency to find out if your community has one.
Questions to Consider
Before choosing a new way to get around, consider these questions.
• Where and when do you want to travel?
• Can you get rides from family members or friends?
• Do you have a disability?
• What can you afford?
A taxi, van, or bus may not cost as much as you think, especially since you are no longer paying car expenses like insurance and gas.
What Are Your Needs?
Depending on your needs, you may want to use more than one type of transportation. Here are some factors to consider:
Flexibility — Some transportation services require reservations ahead of time, so you must plan ahead. Some pick you up and drop you off at a time you choose; others have a fixed schedule.
Location — Some transportation services go to the front of your home or your front door. In contrast, public buses and subways have fixed stops.
Safety — You may feel safer if another person accompanies you on a trip. Or, if you are disabled, you may need special arrangements. For example, people in wheelchairs can ride in specially equipped vans.
Cost — Some services cost more than others. You may qualify for a discount or transportation voucher depending on your age and income.
These are some possible transportation options.
• Rides from friends and family members. You can offer to pay for gas.
• Public transportation. Buses and trains operate on a fixed schedule and at designated stops. Many have discounted fares for older adults and teach you how to use the system. Most buses allow you to get on and off without climbing stairs.
• Paratransit services. Designed for people with disabilities who cannot take regular public transportation, these services have vans or mini-buses that pick you up and drop you off at the curb outside your home or at your front door. A doctor must sign the application.
• Taxis. Share a cab with a friend to save money. Your community may offer discounted fares for older adults. Some taxis are wheelchair accessible.
• Shuttle services for older adults. Some local governments and private nonprofits operate vans or buses to take people around. Some services are for people with physical or mental disabilities.
• Volunteer driver programs. Local religious and nonprofit organizations and small businesses offer free or low-cost rides in volunteers’ personal cars.
Questions to Ask Transportation Providers
Here are some questions to ask when looking at transportation services.
• What age, income, or other requirements are there to use the service?
• Are rides provided for wheelchair users or others with disabilities?
• If needed, can a family member or friend serve as an escort?
• How much does the service cost?
• Are there any discounts for older adults?
• Is my income a factor in using this service?
• Can an account be set up in advance?
• What days and times does the service operate?
• Are rides provided to all destinations or just medical appointments?
• Is a reservation needed? How far in advance?
• Is door-to-door or curb-to-curb service provided?
• Are other passengers sharing the ride? If so, what is the maximum length of time for the ride?
If you can’t go out to get something, have it come to you. Many grocery stores and pharmacies will deliver straight to your door. Your health plan may allow you to receive prescription medications by mail. You can buy many things by catalog or online. In addition, many restaurants deliver meals, or you may be eligible for Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers hot meals to people with limited mobility.
To find out about transportation services in your area, contact your local County Public Health/Family Services or Area Agency on Aging.
Information adapted from article by National Institute of Senior Health Aging Page.
If you would like more information on “Older Drivers – Other Ways to Get Around” contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus – University of Minnesota at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.