Community Transportation Programs Help Older Drivers Stay Mobile and Independent

December 11, 2015

This week is Older Driver Safety Awareness Week and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is shining a spotlight on organizations that assist older drivers in maintaining their mobility and independence.

As part of this observance, older drivers and their loved ones are encouraged to evaluate their driving abilities and transportation needs. This can be a long process for older drivers, but many are navigating the experience with the support of community-based transportation programs designed to keep them on the move.

One organization helping older drivers evaluate the status of their driving ability is the Freedom and Mobility Driver Training and Evaluation (FMDTE). This driving rehabilitation program helps older and handicapped drivers determine if they still have full mobile capability or require modifications to their routine.

“Most people will outlive their ability to drive,” said Beth Gibson, OTR/L, CDRS, Freedom and Mobility. “There are many cases where a person may not be a good judge of their own abilities, so it’s important to determine if they can continue driving or if something needs to change for their safety and the safety of others.”

While consulting with clients, Gibson recommends modifications that are necessary to improve their driving and accommodate changes in their physical abilities due to aging.

“Neuropathy, which is a weakness or numb sensation in the hands or feet, is common among older adults,” said Gibson. “For those drivers, it may be best to give them hand controls for the gas and brake pedal versus controlling it with their feet.”

If former drivers prefer to enjoy the view rather than get behind the wheel, transportation services are an excellent resource to keep them mobile.

Common Courtesy is taking a creative approach to keeping older drivers moving through a partnership with Uber, a popular transportation service that connects riders to drivers through its mobile application.   

Common Courtesy works to maximize the quality of life for anyone who has limited personal transportation options. Clients can catch a ride from Common Courtesy via Uber to go to doctors’ appointments, grocery stores and the pharmacy. The service can even accommodate for personal trips such as attending church, the movies or a routine visit to a hairdresser.

Common Courtesy accepts clients in all locations serviced by Uber, including the Atlanta, Athens and Savannah-Hilton Head areas in Georgia. 

“Riders can either call for a driver themselves or contact us,” said Bob Carr, founder of Common Courtesy. “We like to say that we’re micro-transportation versus mass transportation.”

Family, friends and community members can also support this service by paying for rides for loved ones or local residents in need.

“One year, we had a group of Girl Scouts use their sales from cookies to pay for rides for blind individuals,” said Carr. “We’re proud to be in partnership with our clients and community to meet the transportation needs of Georgia residents.”

For older drivers residing in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park, Roswell and Sandy Springs, there is Senior Services North Fulton. Senior Services offers two transportation assistance services – Get Around Town Easily (GATE) and Transportation Options Program for Seniors (TOPS).

GATE is offered those older adults who are no longer able to drive. The GATE system is run by a ride voucher system where participants pay $25 to receive $100 worth of rides.  

“With GATE, the rider has vouchers and each trip costs a different amount depending on where they need to go,” said Candace Kortovich, mobility manager, Senior Services North Fulton. “For older adults who can no longer drive, it’s great because they can be a part of both GATE and TOPS.”

Kortovich explained that TOPS is a service catered to meeting the medical transportation needs of drivers age 60 and older. The program provides riders one medical trip per month.

“TOPS is another option for older adults who are unable to drive or need assistance to travel,” said Kortovich. “Considering they could have four doctors’ appointments in one week, riders can use vouchers for grocery and personal trips and still have an option with TOPS for their medical needs.”

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is the perfect time to think ahead and plan for the future of your family and loved ones’ mobility needs.

Freedom and Mobility, Senior Services and Common Courtesy are just a few of the great resources available in Georgia to support older drivers. To find help or locate additional services near you, visit DPH’s Older Driver Safety Program online or contact your local Area Agency on Aging

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