By ALLEN RAU
A new program that offers a “lift” to seniors who do not or cannot drive launched Tuesday, Dec. 4 at the Jonesborough Senior Center.
“MyRide TN – Jonesborough” offers “door through door” transportation to town of Jonesborough residents 60 years of age or older.
“Essentially, what it is for is folks who are homebound. To qualify to be a part of the program, you have to be 60,” Senior Center Director Mary Sanger said.
“And this will be serving seniors who don’t have access to transportation, so we have a group of volunteers that will pick these folks up and take them to doctors’ appointments, and then eventually it will include grocery stores, the pharmacy, the bank and things like that. We’re starting with medical appointments first, and we’re starting with folks that live in the city limits of Jonesborough. Eventually we’ll expand out into the county.”
The state-wide program was funded by a grant from the state through “Serving Tennessee’s Seniors,” which is administered by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Funding also came from a grant with the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.
Senior Center Transportation Coordinator Susan Katko will be the program’s leader and she said she saw the benefits the program could offer.
“I see the need. I see the need for rides. Especially for medical appointments, which is where we’re starting. It’s been proven if you can keep them going to these appointments, you are increasing not only their lifespan but their quality of life.
“And this gives me the chills. Sometimes you may be the only person they see that day that week so you’re helping them to not be isolated as well. Then you’re like a gatekeeper because you can keep an eye on them and see if things are changing and if they need some other assistance.”
While the program may seem to be similar to popular transportation services such as Uber or Lyft, one significant difference is the personal touch offered through the door-through-door service.
“The volunteer will go to the (rider’s) house and provide door-through-door,” Sanger said. “So they would pull up, go up to the house, help the person out to the car and take them to the appointment. If it was needed, wait with the person at their appointment and then return them home.”
According to Katko, she has spoken with seniors who are already excited about the program.
“A lot of elderly people don’t want to be just dropped off at the curb of the doctor’s. This lady just called me yesterday and she had seen about the (program) on TV. And she said ‘This is a godsend because when I go to the doctor, I don’t like just being left there.’ She wants someone to stay with her whether it’s in the examination room or the waiting room, knowing someone was there.”
Sanger said they were always on the lookout for more volunteers, and currently there are 13 volunteer drivers who have taken the training.
“It’s a great way to volunteer. We’re always looking to add new volunteers. It’s a very meaningful thing to participate in.”
Those who wish to volunteer to drive must meet the following criteria:
• Be at least a minimum age of 21
• Complete the application
• Pass criminal background check/driving record check
• Pass Tennessee Bureau of Investigation criminal history check prior to their first assignment
• Must interview and take an orientation
• Attend all required training
• Have access to a smartphone or computer
• Have a reliable car and insurance
• Commit to drive at least once per month (Three hour block)
Seniors seeking a ride must meet the following requirements:
• Reside in the town of Jonesborough
• Be at least 60 years old
• Must be ambulatory (No wheelchairs but walkers and canes are permitted)
• Basic self-care (Needs little or no assistance)
• Lives independently/Manages incontinence
• Have the ability to communicate and understand (advanced dementia requires a personal escort, age 18 or over, who ride free of charge)
Members of the program pay a $20 yearly fee and each ride after costs $4.
For additional information, contact Susan Katko at (423) 788-4770 or at [email protected]