Valley organizations provide transportation options for seniors

Volunteers assist seniors in Scottsdale. (submitted photo)

According to the Maricopa Association of Governments, more than 30,000 people over age 65 in Maricopa County do not own a car.

While that number may seem small compared to the millions of individuals in the county, it still leaves the area with a question: What affordable or no-cost transportation options are there for Valley seniors?

Duet: Partners In Health & Aging, a Valley nonprofit, has more than 75 homebound adults on a waiting list to be matched with volunteers who provide free-of-charge transportation to the grocery store and medical appointments. While that waiting list encompasses all of the nonprofit’s service areas, Scottsdale — specifically the 85251 and 85257 zip codes — are hardest hit when it comes to the amount of volunteers needed to provide transportation.

While Duet provides transportation assistance to homebound adults located south of Bell Road in Scottsdale (in addition to five other Valley cities), Foothills Caring Corps: Hugs and Help Happen Here provides similar free-of-charge transportation to homebound seniors in Carefree, Cave Creek, north Scottsdale and north Phoenix.

“Most of our neighbors [those the nonprofit serves] stay in town, even during these hot months,” said Nancy Cohrs, assistant director, volunteer/neighbor coordination for Foothills Caring Corps. “About 50 percent of our volunteers migrate to cooler climates. This creates the perfect storm where demand is always present, thus creating an ongoing need for more volunteers.”

Sue Reckinger, director of volunteer services at Duet, echoes a similar sentiment.

“Many of our volunteers are snowbirds and travel during the summer months, but the homebound adults we serve stay in the Valley and are still in need of vital services such as rides to the grocery store and medical appointments,” Reckinger said.

Reckinger added that homebound adults can feel invisible. Many are still within their own homes, so they do not qualify for the ride services that can come with living in assisted living or retirement facilities, but they might not be able to afford traditional transportation services.

“These homebound adults need help; and the more than we get the word out about nonprofits like Duet and others that provide free-of-charge transportation services, the more likely they are to call for help,” Reckinger said.

While ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are sometimes viable options, experts note that seniors may be hesitant to tackle the technology required to access the services. Some for-cost companies exist to help bridge the gap; Envoy America and GoGo Grandparent among them, and options like the government’s Dial-a-Ride and Senior Cab also help to lift the burden.

(submitted photo)

Northwest Valley Connect, a transportation nonprofit in the West Valley, includes a comprehensive list of all transportation services available to Valley seniors on their website: www.northwestvalleyconnect.org/for-customers/available-transportation-services.

MAG has a similar list, which can be customized to fit various needs: www.azmag.gov/Programs/Transportation/Human-Services-Transportation/MAG-Connect-A-Ride.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 11 percent of Arizona seniors live below the poverty line. Even those that don’t are often still on a fixed income, making free-of-charge transportation options the best option for many.

In Scottsdale, Foothills Caring Corps and Duet are the two main providers of no-cost, volunteer-based transportation for homebound adults. Foothills Caring Corps covers the north end of the city, while Duet covers the south. Both nonprofits connect seniors with volunteers for rides to medical appointments and the grocery store.

Foothills Caring Corps also has a recreational van program.

“Our recreational van program provides ‘door to door’ transportation in vans to lunch outings, shopping, movies, libraries, bingo, silver sneakers, chair yoga, concerts and more,” Cohrs said. “This program is a good networking and social experience for our neighbors.”

Cohrs and Reckinger agree that, in order to meet rising demand, volunteers are continuously needed for both nonprofits.

Cohrs noted that Foothills Caring Corps has volunteer training the second Thursday of each month and can offer specialized training depending on the volunteer’s interest. To learn more, contact Foothills Caring Corps at 480.488.1105 or www.FoothillsCaringCorps.com.

Duet has monthly volunteer orientations; upcoming ones include July 21 and Aug. 18. To learn more, contact Duet at 602-274-5022 or visit www.duetaz.org.

Editor’s Note: Michelle Talsma Everson is a free lance writer.

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