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Transportation assistance programs for seniors.

Many seniors need access to transportation. There are a number of assistance programs that provide free or low cost rides to the elderly, including for emergency needs. The services from non-profits, government programs or charities will help ensure that they continue to have the ability to fulfill services such as a doctor appointment, emergency travel for medical needs or a shopping trip. Many elderly people or retirees also need assistance in getting to a job or to visit their family and friends.

Most Area on Aging offices coordinate this free transportation service for people in their territory. The charities often used volunteers to give free rides or trips to senior citizens. Find more information below on how the elderly can get a free ride for an appointment or low cost transportation help.

Having free or low cost transportation available to them will help allow older adults and senior citizens the ability to live independently. Many of the nation's older citizens can no longer drive for a number of reasons, including vision, hearing or mobility losses, they can no longer afford a car, or maybe due to medical more serious conditions. Transportation programs can help these individuals, and it can even do other things like prevent premature nursing home placement and isolation. For many people it may serve as their only connection to others.

Area Agencies on Aging often take a leading role in coordinating and advocating a comprehensive service delivery system for older persons in the town or county where they operate. In addition to offering transportation, the non-profits will try to address a number of other needs, ranging from medical to nutritional needs and more.

Having access to free or affordable transportation is critical to addressing the needs of seniors and the elderly who may not be able to leave their immediate living area without any other assistance. Your AAA (Agency on Aging offices) should be the first place to call for information about any low cost, regional transportation options. Staff and volunteers at the locations will do what they can to assist.




Types of transportation services for senior citizens or the elderly

Some transportation programs are offered for the elderly from senior centers. Most of the programs do have limited funding and restrictions, so the conditions and availability may change over time.  Any type of transportation provided by a center is usually restricted to picking up and returning seniors from their homes to the senior centers for participation in the activities. They also rely heavily on volunteers, so please volunteer if you can. Call a local center for more information on hours, programs terms, and any fees that may be involved.

Demand-response will usually involve sending a van or vehicle after a phone request is made from the senior or their caregiver. So this type of transportation service does not follow a fixed schedule or route. These rides usually need to be scheduled in advance, and this should normally be anywhere from 24 to 48 hours in advance. Some agency on aging centers may make exceptions, but a caller should not expect this.

A key differentiator of the demand-response service is that the driver may pick up more than one passenger at different locations and also drop them off separately. So that is one reason these need to be scheduled in advance. Paratransit and taxi-cabs may also operate as a demand-response service. It is estimated that about 50% of agency in aging offices provide this type of assistance.

Transportation vouchers are fairly rare, but they may be an option as well. This can be thought of as a form of financial assistance, and it can be provided to qualified individuals so that they can pay for transportation on their own. Some common uses of a voucher can be for bus tokens, paratransit, taxicab, public transit, or other forms of transportation. Vouchers may be used for either public or private transportation. In addition to area agency on aging centers, other non-profits that may have a voucher include non-profits like the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities.

Escorted/assisted transportation programs are options for older individuals with some form of medical condition or disability. It is for individuals who need more hands on assistance than is offered from other programs. Normally what will happen is the driver will help passengers enter and exit the vehicle. They may also escort them to their residence or final destination.

This type of service may be offered with any form of transportation whether demand response or paratransit. It complements these other programs when the senior needs additional support.

Paratransit or fixed route transportation is taking advantage of public transit. This is usually offered for bus, subway, van or rail services along established routes. This can be coordinated by aging on aging, social service agencies, or government resources.







Some of these organizations provide clients with limited fixed route services on a regular schedule. This can even include trips to the grocery store, post office, or a local senior center. If it is an automobile type service, then the paratransit provider will use smaller vehicles such as small buses or minivans to provide the ride. They will also try to accommodate persons with disabilities, offering curb-to-curb or door-to-door service. These tend to be offered at reduced rates or they may just request a small contribution from the individual.

Some agencies will outsource the transportation to local taxicab companies. This is a type of demand-response service that is commonly offered in most states and local communities. In addition, some taxi providers have wheelchair-accessible vehicles and the can may also be an option available for paratransit users.

Charities and non-profits like the Salvation Army may also provide free transportation assistance using volunteers, or in some cases government funding These nonprofit and/or faith-based organizations usually rely heavily on volunteers. Senior citizens may be able to get a ride to a doctor appointment, shopping trip and for socialization purposes. Often times the driver will help people get in and out of the car, if need be. You will need to make a reservation for this type of program.

Contact information for free Senior Transportation Programs

To find a local agency that may offer transportation in your area, dial (800) 677-1116.

By Jon McNamara

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