Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Winning Senior Transportation Programs

I woke up today needing some inspiration and received it when I read the Beverly Foundation's recent Star Search & Star Awards Program 2010 Report.The report includes truly amazing stories of organizations providing lifelines of transportation to medical care, shopping and other destinations that the majority of us take for granted.

Described were meeting needs for door-through-door assistance and transportation, providing free services, and helping older people whose children work full time. Though not written in flowery prose, in sound bites or with sentimentality, the persistent and effective efforts of the winning organizations brought a few tears to my eyes. This snippet from New Jersey paints a picture of frail clients and caring staff and drivers.

Supportive services include: free rides for escorts/family; ride reminders; assistance with personal belonging and groceries; accompaniment through the door at destination; prompt and reliable return pick-ups; a payment system that involves no money exchange in the vehicle; trained drivers that are patient and friendly; accommodation of the needs and changing schedules of older riders with dementia.

Another winning program in the category of winners addressing the needs of people with dementia spoke of its promise not to have its clients wait more than 20 minutes for a ride, noting the confusion and anxiety that waiting causes to people with dementia. Knowing people who have those issues and knowing how difficult it is for an organization to meet a 20-minute goal, I am moved by the evident determination.

Rural winners

One category of winners put the spotlight on rural programs. A Minnesota transportation service started in 1905 with a sleigh and wagon operation and continues to serve folks who would remain isolated without its neighborly assistance.
This area is 100% rural, spans four counties, and has no formal public transportation services available aside from two, short-corridor fixed routes offered by county public transit systems. However, these two public transit routes will not cross county lines and provide only curb-to-curb service, leaving behind many seniors who need door-through-door assistance, especially during the harsh Minnesota winters.

The Beverly Foundation uses its STAR search survey to find and celebrate excellence (STAR Awards for Excellence) and to recognize special efforts (STAR Special Recognition Awards) in the field of transportation options for seniors.

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