October 15, 2013

Considering seniors’ needs beyond the front door

When you think of accessibility for seniors, you may be thinking of a first-floor bedroom, an entrance without steps, and other modifications to the home. These aspects are very important in meeting the needs of an older adult in a home, but life goes beyond the front door. When choosing a place to live that meets your needs, you have to think about the other activities you’ll be doing. Going to the doctor, to the grocery store, or to church. These things require transportation, something that isn’t always accessible for seniors.

That’s why people like George Yedinak of Senior Housing News advocates for “an affordable form of personalized transportation.” The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) provides such services through the 25 Area Agencies on Aging.

According to DARS spokesperson A.J. Hostetler, “Many communities have public-private sector partnerships which organize transit options.” Examples of award-winning transportation programs include Bedford Ride and the RSVP and Care-A-Van Driving Programs provided by the Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Board of Culpepper.

Senior transportation issues received a lot of attention in the 2010 report on Virginia’s Blueprint for Livable Communities, and it will continue to receive attention as the Baby Boomer generation ages. The report emphasizes the need to make transportation available when it states that “a community which does not have the support services or the infrastructure in place to facilitate access, mobility, and independent living may inadvertently deprive itself not only of an economic opportunity, but of countless vital human resources -- the volunteers, civic leaders, workforce members, brilliant and creative thinkers, consumers and advocates found among both older Virginians and Virginians living with disabilities.”

You may not be giving up driving a personal vehicle in the next 10 years, but most likely you know someone who will, or who already has. That puts a strain on those who provide transportation. Transit options like the ones in Bedford and Culpepper can be a good alternative to allow seniors to stay connected while remaining in the home of their choice.
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