Excerpts from the September 2012, Senior Spirit newsletter
Recently, a 100-year-old elderly driver made headlines after seriously injuring a group of parents and children in Los Angeles after accidentally backing up his vehicle into the crowd. Such stories appear all too often, as if to demonstrate the dangers of senior driving.
For those who decide they do not want to drive anymore or if the decision is forced on them, (see Brain Exercises Reduce Senior Drivers’ Crash Risk, and How Seniors Can Become Safer Drivers), there are plenty of options for alternative forms of transportation. Availability of these options will depend on what types of programs your local government provides for senior citizens.
Depending on where a senior lives, the local public transportation office may provide reduced fares for seniors and provide routes that accommodate wheelchairs or other special needs. Although locally operated transportation services are extremely important to elders, their availability and cost vary greatly from town to town.
Many communities try to meet senior transportation needs in some way. To help seniors save money on transportation, some areas offer vouchers to defray the costs, base prices on a sliding scale or provide free or minimally priced transportation. Another common option is a van that will pick up seniors at their homes and bring them to a grocery store or senior center. While sometimes slow, these vans offer seniors a way to get out and an opportunity to socialize with others in the van. This transportation option is often run by the local government agency on aging, although retirement communities often offer their own shuttle buses or vans.
Taxis or Private Driving Companies
Private transportation is another alternative to the personal car, but the costs of taxis and car services can be expensive, with urban areas generally costing more than rural areas. However, competition among providers in a particular area usually leads to lower prices. One government agency, the Prince William Area Agency on Aging in northern Virginia, has created a program for those who cannot use public transit. This agency's transportation voucher program enables eligible residents to use subsidized taxi and accessible transportation services.
Home Care Aides
Seniors or their caregivers can hire aides through local home care agencies, but they should check to make sure that the agency runs background checks and carefully screens employees. While this transportation and care option is extremely convenient, such individualized care can be expensive. In 2007, MetLife (http://www.metlife.com/individual/financial-tools/index.html) estimated that the average hourly cost of a home care aide worker was $19 per hour. However, in some states the surveyed rate was as high as $30 per hour and as low as $9 per hour. Similarly, a private individual can be hired, but care must be taken to find someone reliable. Care.com (http://www.care.com) suggests that people find out how long the provider has been in the transportation business, ask for at least three references with contact information, request background details, and run a background check.
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The Society of Certified Senior Advisors would love to hear from you. Have you experienced "giving up the car" or have you helped a loved one go through this transition? Share your story with us!
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