I’ve been working in senior transportation and specifically on the Independent Transportation Network for almost 20 years. My parents have helped and supported this work throughout that time. In the beginning, my Dad said things like “When are you going to get a real job,” and “Are they paying you yet?” After awhile, he was proud of the progress we made.
Still, when the time came for him to stop driving, there was no ITN in his community. Both of my parents grew up in New York City, so they grew up with public transportation. My mother did not even learn to drive until she was in her 50’s. My parents were living on Long Island, in what could easily be described as a transportation rich community. They had access to trains, busses, paratransit services, airports, private bus services, limousines and taxicabs. However, by the time they reached their later years, the only way they would travel was by automobile.
I spoke with our parents about the transportation services available to help them if they limited driving or had to stop driving. Fixed route busses were out of the question, since they could not walk to the bus stop and certainly could not carry packages. My mother identified the paratransit service for her community and sent away for the application, which she completed and returned. She phoned her friends who had stopped driving and asked them for the name and number of the “private driver” who took older people to doctor’s appointments. During one visit to my folks, on one of our daily exercise walks around the neighborhood, my mother pointed out the home of the local taxi driver she thought she could trust. She called his company and made arrangements to use their services when she needed them.
So, it seemed we had a plan. Alternative transportation, access to caregivers, names and numbers for doctors and hospitals, prescription drug information—everything we thought we needed to help two wonderful people live their lives exactly as they chose, where they chose, on their own terms. We even had a back up plan, an independent living facility near my sister, where they could move, God forbid, if they needed to leave the home they loved.
The plan was in place in the nick.
To be continued…