by Myrle Gilpin Bowe
How would you cope if, suddenly, you lost your ability to drive, particularly if you live alone or have little access to friends or family? Educate yourself on alternatives before the need arises so that you don’t panic after.
Consider your alternatives. Is travel medically necessary? Some medical trips may be covered by Medicare or Medicaid, workers compensation, or insurance. For leisure travel/shopping investigate the following:
- Local agencies: Pay a “membership fee” for access to volunteer drivers. Typically you must schedule trips at least three business days ahead.
- Senior centers: Often offer transportation to shopping, the library, or entertainment events–but first you must get to the center.
- Churches or service clubs such as Rotary, Lions or Kiwanis may organize volunteer drivers.
- Colleges, and even some high schools, may have groups dedicated to helping older adults. However, hiring a young driver, even a grandchild, comes with risks you may not want to assume, notably lack of driving experience.
- Private companies that offer travel assistance for a fee.
Before you schedule a trip, gather information. Find out:
- How long has the company been in business
- Reputation for reliability and courtesy
- Do they carry adequate insurance
- Screening and training of drivers, including defensive driving, CPR, passenger assistance
- Screening and qualification of medical attendants
- Are vehicles easily accessible and air conditioned
State agencies handling transportation or services for older adults can provide information on bus schedules including fixed routes, off-route stops, special equipment such as steps or ramps, and smaller buses for people with disabilities that lock down wheelchairs for safety, all with drivers trained in assisting passengers.
DART’S public transportation is still the most cost-effective choice for seniors and people with disabilities. Count on accessible vehicles, qualified, courteous drivers, and a fixed schedule with some flexibility to allow for off-route stops. Robert Merritt, a frequent DART paratransit user, shares, “DART paratransit services provide me with a critical link to the outside world, access to necessary services like medical appointments, and an opportunity to participate in community activities that are fun, educational, and life-affirming…as if I were able to drive.”
DART (www.dartfirststate.com) offers reduced fares for people age 65 and over or who have a certified disability. The reduced fare on DART’s regular bus service is $0.80 vs. $2.00 regular fare and $4-5 for paratransit, depending on whether the trip is within the ADA service area. Call DART at 1-800-652-3278.
Delaware’s Senior Citizen Affordable Taxi Service (SCAT) offers a 50% discount on taxi fares. Discount tickets can be purchased for $5 at DART Transportation stores. Call 1-800-652-3278, Opt. 2 for locations. You will need a DART SCAT photo ID, then just call to request a trip.
Don’t wait until you can’t drive – educate yourself now to have one less worry in the future.