Research is continually being conducted to determine quality of life issues faced by older Americans. In addition to the obvious health, safety, and financial concerns, one issue that regularly is noted is transportation difficulties.
For some people, the skills required to drive a car safely can deteriorate as they age. Loss of eyesight, slower reflexes, and memory loss can create a situation that makes it necessary to stop driving. This can create a difficult situation for everyday needs and the simple feeling of freedom that we all want.
About 600,000 older adults stop driving each year, according to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. The sudden loss of transportation independence can lead to isolation issues and subsequent medical problems brought on by isolation, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, dementia, and even death.
Transportation assistance often becomes the responsibility of family caregivers. According to a 2018 survey from the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, roughly 40% of caregivers spend five hours or more a week providing or arranging transportation. This need can increase the stress on the caregiver as they juggle their private lives, their jobs, and their caregiving responsibilities.
Many people turn to public transportation. This can be an affordable option as many services offer a discount for elder riders. However, there are factors that can make traditional public transportation less attractive for the non-driver.
- Distance to public transportation. In many communities, there are bus or train services available, but the pickup location can be far from the rider’s home. In addition to distance, lack of or poorly maintained sidewalks and hilly conditions can make walking to a pickup location difficult or dangerous.
- Difficulty boarding a bus. Stepping up onto a bus can be difficult for an older person. Kneeling buses or extendable stairs can help with this situation, but the rider needs to check beforehand to make sure their chosen bus route is served by an accessible vehicle.
- Convenience. It’s not uncommon to need to take a scheduled bus/train several hours before your appointment/event or to wait an extended period of time for a return trip due to limited service.
- Limited Hours of Operation. Many public transportation services only run during the day on weekdays. Evenings, weekends, and holidays, the rider must find an alternative.
- Unexpected cancellations. Inclement weather and other circumstances can cause a scheduled bus/train to be cancelled.
There are several options for non-drivers to get around their communities and around the North Shore. With pre-planning and patience, getting to an appointment/event can be managed. The MBTA, CATA, Councils on Aging, Veterans Service Agencies, hospitals, ambulance services, taxi and ride share services, and more offer a variety of options for the non-driver. The MBTA and CATA now offer cellphone apps to help riders plan their trips.
For medical appointment transportation, SeniorCare offers a door-to-door escort service for people aged 60+, who are self-mobile, do not need physical assistance, wheelchairs, or oxygen tanks, and reside within SeniorCare’s nine community area (Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester, Rockport, Topsfield, and Wenham). There is no charge for this service, but the rider is required to pay any tolls or parking fees. Depending on the appointment location, three to seven days advance notice is required to utilize this service. For more information, contact SeniorCare’s Transportation Department at 978-281-1750.
SeniorCare has a “Transportation Resource Guide” that is available online at www.seniorcareinc.org/sc_transport.pdf. For people without access to the internet, a printed guide can be requested from SeniorCare’s Transportation Department at 978-281-1750. This handbook provides information about transportation options for SeniorCare’s nine communities.