Archive for December, 2009

My Parents Transition to the Passenger Seat

December 31, 2009

Part One: Older Drivers: A Family Affair

My parents have given me permission to tell their story—this story. The transition from driving is a family affair. I dedicate this story to their good hearts, to my family, and to the millions of families across the nation who will gather for the holidays and struggle with this hidden problem. How do older people make the transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat with dignity and independence?

I began talking to my sister and brothers about our parents’ situation a few months before Liberty Mutual asked me to write about the transition from driving for their website. At first, I only wanted to write about statistically significant research results, but they encouraged me to write from my 20 years of experience with older drivers and their families and what I knew to be the core issues. There is a time for science, and a time for heart and instinct, and I think that in the best leaps in understanding they just blend together.

What the good folks at Liberty Mutual did not know is that I was writing from my own life events, as well as my professional experience, and that I have actually taken my own advice. I think they call this “taking a dose of your own medicine.”

Like many families, ours is spread over several states, so the conversation began by email among the adult children. I got things started by writing to everyone saying that I thought we needed to talk about how to support our parents’ wishes before there was a health crisis or an emergency. At the time, my mother was 84, my dad 93, and they were living independently in their own home. Both were driving, and I knew we were on thin ice. Better to aim for the shore before it cracks, I thought. It was only a matter of time.

To be continued…

Possible Next Chapters:
Part Two: Say “I love you” and be patient
Part Three: Moving Forward Again, Safely

ITNGreaterCincinnati

December 23, 2009

ITNGreaterCincinnati™ is doing everything right.  I’ve just returned from the Vital Signs Forum, sponsored by the Deaconess Associations Foundation, one of the key community stakeholders collaborating to bring ITN to the Cincinnati Metropolitan area.

I first met Pat Ward and Barbara Lohr of the Deaconess Associations Foundation, Amy Scrivner of the Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation, Robin Usalis of Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and John Mitchell of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired last June in Lexington, Kentucky, when I was there to speak at the University of Kentucky Summer Series on Aging.  While I was “in the neighborhood” Gale Reece and Laura Dake of ITNBluegrass™ offered to host an introductory meeting for the group from Cincinnati, who were looking for a transportation solution for seniors and people with visual impairments.

It is a wonder how fast ideas can turn into solutions when people are ready to act.  In less than six months, ITNGreaterCincinnati was launched, with plans to have rides for people by spring of 2010.  It’s a combination of action-oriented citizens and a system that supports them with everything they need so they don’t reinvent the wheel.

Pat is a man with great charm and warmth—a real “people person” as one of his colleagues described him.  He made sure I had fun in Cincinnati, touring me all over to see the architecture and the parks, as well as the Taft Museum and a play that was a fundraiser for his beautiful parks.  He is a man who loves his city, so it made me feel very proud that it is ITN he wants to bring to town to serve people with special transportation needs. But the fun was so mixed with the work I felt I was on vacation as much as a business trip.

Pat and I also met with representatives from some of the many corporations headquartered in Cincinnati and spoke with them about the importance of sustainable transportation for the entire community.  In the spirit of community collaboration and grassroots support, with leadership from a man named Pat, ITNGreaterCincinnati™ is off and running.

ITN and Senior Transportation on NPR

December 1, 2009

It was a real pleasure listening to Thaddeus Seymour on NPR last week as he described what transportation means for older people who have stopped driving.  Thaddeus is the retired President of Rollins College, but he is also a volunteer driver and a member of the Board of Directors of ITNOrlando™.  The last time I heard Thad speak was in a church meeting room in Orlando at a special volunteer driver recruitment event sponsored by the AARP Florida State Office, ITNAmerica and ITNOrlando.

He is a tall man, more than six feet.  I had never heard him speak before a group.  He wasn’t scheduled to speak, but he rose from his seat after the presentation on volunteer driving, and spoke from his heart and experience.

“I remember meeting in the basement of this very church in the 1970s,” he said.  “We were a small group of local people who came together to try to do something about housing for lower income community members.”

He spoke with the clarity of one who sees his memory as he describes it for others.  “It was a new idea at the time,” he said, “called Habitat for Humanity.”

He said what he really liked about the Habitat idea was that the people in the community could actually come together and do something about the problem.  They could do it themselves, not ask others to do it for them, but raise the funds and build the houses themselves.

Thaddeus said he felt the same quality and satisfaction with ITN.  He loved volunteering to drive others.  With every ride he delivered, he helped to meet a need for an older person.  And just as he explained in the NPR story, he described how ITN is much more than a ride, how it keeps older people connected to their community, with dignity and independence.

NPR also covered ITNAmerica on Morning Addition in January of 2009.