Giving up the car keys doesn’t have to affect your parent’s mobility

Senior-friendly transportation optionsDo you expect to have the driving conversation with your parents this year? If so, you’re not alone. According to the the Federal Highway Administration’s 2012 estimate, there were approximately 23.1 million licensed drivers who were 70 years and older. And when you finally do broach the subject, your parents will likely use the argument that they have to drive— how else can they go shopping or reach doctor’s appointments. If you don’t live in the area or know a family friend who can chauffeur your parent around, the argument might persuade you to concede that they can drive a bit longer, even if you know it’s unsafe. Fortunately, there are community transportation resources available that you can turn to, and many are specifically for seniors.

Of the grants which are distributed to the states for funding programs to serve older adults, the Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities (5310) grant is solely targeted to funding transportation services for seniors and adults with disabilities. The funding, which is distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation through its Federal Transit Administration, is appropriated based upon the number of seniors and persons with disabilities residing in a state as per the latest U.S. census data. States then allocate the funds via a grant or another funding process to private nonprofit groups, government agencies who provide services where no nonprofit is available, or government agencies which coordinate the transportation services. These groups may only provide transportation services or could also offer other social services as well, such as meals, operating senior centers or legal aid.

What are the transportation options?

One reason why older adults may be reluctant to relinquish the car keys is because they think that the public transit system is the only option. For some seniors, riding the bus may be overwhelming and they may not be able to reach a bus stop, especially if they aren’t within walking distance. But public transportation agencies have made great strides to provide alternative transportation options besides just buses. King County Metro, as an example, offers a van service that provides door-to-door service for riders who are unable to ride buses.

Nonprofit organizations which operate senior centers or the local Meals on Wheels program may also offer a transportation service. Washington State-based Senior Services has a Hyde Shuttle program which provides van transportation for seniors and people with disabilities to medical appointments, grocery stores and other places as needed.

For a private transportation option, families can consider turning to ITNAmerica. This nonprofit organization has affiliates across the nation that provide transportation in a local metro area. Instead of being funded by grants, membership dues support the organization. The annual individual membership fee may vary by affiliate (iTNGreater Tuscon is a $50 while iTNLehigh Valley is $60) and family memberships are also available. For each ride, there are charges that include a pickup charge, per mile cost or same-day service.

ITNAmerica doesn’t consider itself a taxi service because its drivers provide door-to-door service, even accompanying riders to the door or helping with packages. Instead of vans, seniors ride in the comfort of a personal vehicle. What also makes the service senior friendly is drivers aren’t paid at the time of service; rather the cost of the ride is deducted from a prepaid account. The only drawback to this service is not every major metro has an ITNAmerica affiliate.

Finding a transportation option for a loved one

The one-stop-resource that should be the first on your list to call is the local Area Agency on Aging where your parent lives. Here you can find the resources available in the area. Even better, you can find an advocate who can help connect you with the services your aging parent needs to remain independent, albeit without the car keys.

Though loved ones may be resistant to using a transportation service, fearing it won’t fit within their schedule or believing they are still capable of driving, they should realize that these transportation services are designed to make life easier. After all, think of how much money will be saved not having to pay for car insurance or maintain a car. There is also the bonus of meeting new people during the ride. Yes, it will take a bit of adjusting to scheduling shopping trips and doctor’s appointments, but that’s a small price to pay for protecting your parents’ lives and other drivers on the road.

With these resources in hand, you will be prepared to address your parent’s argument for relinquishing the keys. But if you still need advice how to broach the subject, visit our blog next week as we discuss how to start the conversation.

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