A Ride, a Companion, a Solution when you give up your car keys
Published in the 2020 All About Seniors Fall/Winter Edition
By Sandy Quinque
Isolation. It affects millions of older Americans when they give up the task of driving. It’s been reported that loneliness and isolation is a bigger health risk than obesity or smoking. The effects of giving up driving are real and the problems are proliferating. And then came the pandemic. The mental health effects of the virus has been tremendous on our senior community. SC DHEC recently released guidelines to allow for indoor visits. Baby steps. Once we conquer having family and friends visiting facilities and homes, then we are back to square one on getting our seniors outside their homes and onto their appointments and errands.
Many seniors are reluctant to stop driving, even though they may be putting themselves and their communities in danger by continuing to get behind the wheel. The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) predicts that elderly traffic fatalities will triple by the year 2030. For most seniors, the ability to drive not only represents their level of independence, but also serves as an essential means of preserving one’s identity and life-long routines. Therefore, to give up one’s driver’s license is akin not only to relinquishing independence and freedom of mobility, but also to a loss of self-esteem and power. The effects are real.
By the year 2034, people over the age of 65 will outnumber those under 18 which is the first time in our country’s history for this to occur. The lack of transportation for this demographic is growing by the minute. Currently 1 in 5 Americans miss 15% of their appointments due to lack of transportation. In addition, 50% of people over 85 live alone, don’t drive or socialize. We as humans, at our core are social beings. As we age, the need for socialization does not change. According to AARP, 90% of Americans plan on aging at home. Transportation becomes an issue for those that are at home and do not have access to a car. The transportation dilemma extends to senior facilities as well since their shuttles are often overbooked and underserved.
Some suggested ways of getting a loved one to relinquish their keys is offering alternatives. Research public transportation and look for volunteer programs at your church, community centers, and non-profit organizations. Be sympathetic and clearly explain you know this is a radical change to their life style. And finally, be prepared to allow them to ease into this change by asking them to limit driving under certain conditions such as at night or inclement weather. Once they buy into the concept, the next conversation can be ceasing driving.
Most cities in the US including Charleston are challenged by the lack of public transportation and other affordable transportation services. Charleston being a coastal town has additional logistical strains. According to the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, family caregivers provided 1.4 billion rides per year to older adults. Still, older adults who live a long distance from family or who need frequent rides (such as receiving chemotherapy or dialysis) depend on more formal services to meet their needs. Many family caregivers report that due to the frequency of appointments they are often unable to provide the rides on a consistent basis. There are volunteer transportation programs that offer rides but unfortunately these organizations are very difficult to sustain due to relying on volunteers and not employees. Very often they become defunct.
A Golden Ride has a mission to allow seniors, veterans and adults with disabilities to maintain their independence with their transportation service. They offer ambulatory clients door through door which means helping with any mobility issues and stowing away walkers and wheelchairs. The Ambassadors stay with the clients for the duration of their appointments and assist in making sure the senior gets into their home safely.
Many car manufactures such as Tesla and General Motors have been developing the concept of the autonomous vehicle. These vehicles could allow the public to use roads with the self-navigating features to a preferred destination at a significantly lower cost than current taxi and ride sharing prices. We are years away from this concept being released to the public but it is comforting to know this may be an alternative in the future for our communities.
Another organization that has its eye on the concept of mobility is The Shared Used Mobility Center. Their vision is to create a world where universal mobility enables everyone to live well without having to own a car. Although we are not quite there yet, we do have aspirations to live and function without owning a car. This concept serves to solve many problems that are seniors are facing today.
Sandy Quinque is the CEO/Founder of A Golden Ride, LLC. It is her mission to help seniors, veterans, adults with disabilities or anyone who needs to maintain a happy and self-reliant lifestyle. “We are more than just a transportation service, we are people who care. A Golden Ride, LLC is a non-medical transportation company providing services for seniors, veterans and adults with disabilities.
(843) 566-4039 or firstname.lastname@example.org