Archive for the ‘ITNAmerica’ Category

Dr. Gwen Bergen of the CDC on how older adults can remain mobile and be safer drivers

February 23, 2017

Dr Gwen BergenDr. Gwen Bergen’s personal experiences are what led to her interest in public health. She grew up whitewater kayaking and canoeing and had some friends who were hurt and another who drowned as a result of these activities. What she realized, consequently, is that many fatal and nonfatal injuries are preventable.

She earned her master’s degree in public health at Emory University and went on to obtain a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University where she focused on behavioral science with a concentration in injury. Later, she completed a service fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in Hyattsville, Maryland. While she was with NCHS, she did injury research studies and used general health data sets to collect injury data and created and published, Injury in the United States: 2007 Chartbook.

Dr. Bergen now serves as a Behavioral Scientist on the Home and Recreation Team in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Before serving in her current position, she was on the Transportation Safety Team for six years. She works to prevent older adult falls, to understand older adult mobility issues, and investigates better sources of surveillance and economic data for unintentional injury.

Retirement Planning and Mobility Exercises

Through her research, Dr. Bergen has discovered some interesting statistics on older adult drivers and she notes that there are no clear tests that tell us when a person needs to stop driving. But she believes as a nation we are starting to move in the direction of doing the research to determine if there are some clear indicators. “It’s not always because older adults are unsafe drivers; it’s because they become frailer as they age, making them more susceptible to injury.” She adds, “The data that surprised me the most from my research since I’ve been in this field is how few options there are for older adults when they stop driving.”

So what can we do to ensure that we can remain mobile and safer as older adults? Thankfully, the CDC has a plan in development to address these issues, and Dr. Bergen says they are taking a holistic approach.

“We’re developing a mobility planning tool, aimed at adults who are 60-74 years old to use at the same time they begin planning their retirement.” She adds, “Retirement planning may include where they’re going to live, how they’re going to finance it, and it’s a perfect time to start thinking about how their mobility might change as they age. It’s something we all need to be better prepared for.”

Dr. Bergen also suggests that older adults do these three things on a regular basis to be the best drivers they can be.

  • Daily Exercise: It’s a fact that we become frailer as we age. Falls are the number one cause of injury deaths in older adults, and combined with motor vehicle crashes— both of which are related to mobility — they are the leading causes of injury. Regular exercise can increase strength and can potentially prevent falls to keep older adults driving longer.
  • Review Medications: As people age, they can develop health conditions that require taking a lot of medications, and sometimes these drugs may be too strong for older adults, or the medications may have interactions. Older adults should ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medications, including prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, and even herbal and natural remedies. It’s always a good idea to make sure that there aren’t any interactions and to see if the dosages may need adjusting to reduce side effects.
  • Yearly Eye Exams: A yearly vision exam is important for older drivers. If cataracts are detected, get them corrected. Make sure glasses and corrective lenses are the right prescription and wear them while driving. If you are restricted to day driving, abide by your doctor’s orders.

Know Your Transportation Options

For older adults who need rides temporarily, or for those who have already made the decision to stop driving, there are transportation options out there. For example, Rides in Sight, a program of ITNAmerica is listed on the CDC website as a resource for those seeking transportation for a variety of reasons.

Dr. Bergen says that after her mother had surgery, which kept her from driving for three months, she went to Rides in Sight to see what was available on the days she wasn’t able to drive her around. “Rides in Sight allows people to find local transportation options quickly.” She adds, “Our choice to list it as a resource on the CDC website came from talking to ITNAmerica, and learning how they continuously update and evaluate the data to make sure it’s the best transportation information they can give.”

Another takeaway from Dr. Bergen’s research is that when older adults stop driving it can lead to social isolation and depression, and maybe even a shortened lifespan. She notes, “I know for adult children the decision to take the car away from their parent is a tough one to make, especially knowing what it does to their independence.” However, these conversations can be easier if you familiarize yourself with the senior transportation options available in your area.

We all need to take the time to educate ourselves about mobility health and safety issues, and with proper planning and the right tools, the transition from driving can be less stressful for older adults and their loved ones.

For more information on Motor Vehicle Safety, please visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online.

Martha Giles

December 23, 2011

Martha Giles
April 14, 1929 – December 9, 2011
Martha Giles

Have you seen this picture of the laughing lady? The lady’s name was Martha Lucretia Holt Whidden Giles, and she was the most remarkable volunteer driver ITN has ever known. Martha passed away last week. Her record of service will stand for years. Between October 16, 1996 when she delivered her first volunteer ride, and September 15, 2008, when she delivered her last ride, Martha volunteered to drive 11,082 times, driving a total of 95,255 miles. Think of it this way. The circumference of the world is 24,859 miles, so Martha volunteered to drive enough to go around the world almost 4 times. For her great contribution as a volunteer for ITN, Martha received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2008.

Martha loved to socialize, to meet the people, to talk with them, and above all, to keep moving. She served as Secretary of the Independent Transportation Network Board of Directors for many years, and she attended every fundraising event (when she wasn’t busy driving members who wanted to attend). When we needed a volunteer to pose for pictures, Martha stepped forward. This picture of Martha, throwing her head back and laughing beside the pond in Deering Oaks Park, Portland, appeared on the cover of a special report for the Transportation Research Board.

Her background was just extraordinary. A graduate of Bennington College, she worked for the CIA for several years, and her vow of secrecy was so strong, that no one ever found out what she did there. She became a part of the Moonwatch Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Satellite Tracking Program, and she lived in India for a while.

Once we cooked up an idea to encourage others to volunteer. We pitched it to Martha and to the Portland City Council and we called it the Giles Miles Program. The City Council issued a proclamation creating Giles Miles Day, and ITNPortland and Martha offered a 500 mile signing bonus to any citizen of Portland who would volunteer to drive and contribute the credits earned to the Road Scholarship Fund. The bonus was offered by Martha, out of her treasury of transportation credits, and that bonus, too went into the Scholarship Fund for low income riders.

The last time I saw Martha, she was still an ITN member, but she was a rider, rather than a driver. The ITNPortland dispatcher, Mary, knew that when Martha scheduled a ride, I wanted to be the one to drive her if I possibly could. We spent an hour in her kitchen slowly looking through her family picture album. Moving to the dining room, we stood by the china closet, while Martha described the history of every piece of china she had inherited.

It’s a very sweet memory of an impressive, strong, sympathetic, generous lady, and a life so well lived. I know she will rest in peace. Martha’s family has asked for donations in her memory to go to ITNPortland or to the Maine Chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you again, Martha.

ITNAmerica’s National Car Donation Program

September 23, 2011

We did it! After all these years of working with communities to help set up ITN affiliates — we are now in 15 states — we finally have a national car donation program. Now, anyone anywhere in the United States who wants to help support the nation’s first and only transportation network for seniors and people with visual impairments can donate a car to help the cause.

Please don’t confuse car donation with ITN’s CarTrade™ program, in which older people trade their no longer used cars to help pay for their own rides. Aging Today, newsletter of the American Society on Aging, has a story on CarTrade and how it can help older people and their families with the transition from driving. CarTrade is arranged directly with each ITN Affiliate Community.

Car donation is a charitable gift, and if you have a vehicle you are no longer using, car donation is a great way to help ITNAmerica build a dignified solution for mobility for our aging population. As the end of the tax year approaches and you are thinking of ways to give, we hope you will remember our efforts to build a strong, community based, volunteer supported, grassroots solution to a very quiet need that touches every family in America.

Donate your car now.

1,000 Rides — A Community Celebration in Coastal Connecticut

September 19, 2011

Meeting people in communities all over the United States is one of the happiest parts of my job as Executive Director at ITNAmerica. This week I had the good fortune to speak at the 1,000 Rides Celebration for ITNCoastalCT. The event was held at a beautiful church, and the room was filled with people who had either worked hard for years to launch their own ITN affiliate, or who had come to support the people who did the work.  There were flowers, cakes, and smiling faces wherever I turned.  I drove down from Maine, and arrived directly to the event, where I was the keynote speaker.

Paul Spiekermann
Photo by Bonnie Adler, Minuteman Newspaper.

That’s a laugh. The real keynote speaker was Paul Spiekermann, the ITN rider member who took the 1,000th ride.  Dr. Spiekermann is a specialist in tropical diseases and has lived all over the world.  As I listened to him speak, it was as though he had read my mind when I was designing the ITN model.  I grabbed my program and pen an starting scribbling quotes.

Describing what it is like to stop driving, Dr. Spiekermann said:

  • “you really are housebound” and
  • “you may become isolated.”

Describing his experience with ITN, he said:

  • “it is a dignified way of doing it,”
  • “it’s affordable”
  • “it’s also the possibility of social contact — conversations are possible!” and
  • “most important, it gives us independence.”

Like so many ITN rider members, Dr. Spiekermann uses ITN for every possible kind of ride, not just visits to the doctor.  He runs errands, goes shopping, and goes to Rotary meetings.  His charm, intelligence and vivacity instantly replace all stereotypes of older people — and their transportation needs — with an upbeat promise of the future.  What can I possible add to that?

National Transportation Safety Board Hearings

November 17, 2010

Barbara Hersman, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, just held two days of hearings on the safety of older drivers in Washington, DC. The NTSB is guiding the public’s attention to the safety needs of older people and their families.

A few years ago, when Ms. Hersman was first looking into this issue, we had an appointment to meet in Washington to talk about the connection between driving and the alternatives older people face when they make the decision to move to the passenger seat. The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent federal agency that looks into all manner of transportation safety, and sure enough, there literally was a train wreck the day of our meeting. Ms. Hersman was called away and we never did reschedule.

Maybe, if that meeting had taken place, transportation alternatives might have made it onto the agenda for the two days of hearings, which not only explored the safety issues related to the aging driver but possible strategies to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities.

Some of the experts, notably Sandi Rosenbloom, explained that a lack of alternatives forces people to stay behind the wheel longer than it is safe for them to do so. Sandi is a brilliant transportation analyst whose work many years ago influenced the thinking that went into the development of the Independent Transportation Network®.

We will need more than references to the need for alternatives to focus the nation’s attention on mobility, as well as safety, for the aging population. The hearings in Washington are a good starting place. They bring the safety issue into the light of day, and place it high on the national agenda. Now we need something similar for the other half of the equation—mobility.

ITNAmerica Joins Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive in New York’s Grand Central Station

November 4, 2010

I am on my way to Grand Central Station, New York City. After months of not being able to write my blog – blogger’s block maybe – I am writing in the back seat of a yellow cab, on my way to Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive in Grand Central Station. After 20 years of talking with adult children who are worried about their parents’ driving but don’t know how to begin the conversation, I am grateful and awestruck that Liberty Mutual is holding a major event in New York City today to help people begin this conversation on a national scale. I know that when we help families with this sensitive issue we are saving lives, but to see it, to be here, is one of those BIG days in life you never forget.

If you or someone you love is worried about senior driving, or you just want to learn more, please visit Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive and take the pledge to have a conversation. For every conversation, Liberty Mutual will donate $10 to ITNAmerica, directly supporting rides for seniors across the country.

To learn more about senior transportation and how to start an ITN affiliate in your community, contact us and we will do our best to help you, through our new webinar series, or a one-to-one conversation.

Katherine Walks for Rides

June 18, 2010

Katherine is walking for ITNAmerica, to bring dignified transportation for seniors to every community in America!

Read about Katherine’s 2010 Walk for Rides.

Katherine’s Walk: Day 26, June 18

June 18, 2010

I am leaving in a little while for the 24 Hour Walk for Rides. Send me messages if you are walking, too. My wonderful staff is going to give me a Twitter lesson later so I can send messages as I go. I’ll meet you in the air up there, wherever these communications float…

Image Gallery

Image Gallery 2

Katherine’s Walk: Day 25, June 15

June 18, 2010


This was my last training walk and I am glad Dougie could join me. He’s been sidelined with an injury, but he will be back to walk with me again on Friday, June 18, for my 24 Hour Walk for Rides. We did an easy walk part way around Baxter Boulevard, but the Celtics were playing at 8PM, so that was it for Dougie’s interest in walking. Looks like my grand total mileage for training is just shy of 50 miles. See you all in person or in spirit at Baxter Boulevard, in Portland, Maine, for the day we all stand up for dignified transportation for the older people in our lives who have given us all so much, and who now need us to stand up for them, for the mobility they need to lead full and active lives, whether or not they drive a car.

(.2 miles, 49.5 miles total)

Katherine’s Walk: Day 24, June 9

June 17, 2010

After walking with Senator Susan Collins on Capitol Hill, I took the night train back to Hartford, Connecticut, where I left my car, and drove back to my mother’s place to spend the night.  The next day, I drove to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I walked along the Charles River with Andrew Wolk, of Root Cause.

(0.5 miles, 47.5 miles total)