Guest Blogger: Patrice Earnest, Director of the Eldercare Locator. This article provides an overview of transportation requests made to the Eldercare Locator by consumers across the country and how connections to services are being fulfilled.
Transportation: The #1 Consumer Need
As the only national information and referral resource providing support to consumers seeking assistance across the spectrum of issues affecting older Americans, the Eldercare Locator receives over 300,000 inquiries each year. A recently released report, Making Connections: Consumer Needs in an Aging, highlights major requests received into the call center. Transportation needs ranked as the number one request for assistance comprising 21% of the total calls received. The report breaks down the top transportation requests which include: 1) Routine Medical Appointment 74%, 2) General Transportation 8%, 3) Wheelchair and Scooter Assistance 5%, 4) Dialysis Treatment 3% and 5) Long Distance Transportation 2%.
When talking to callers, The Information and Referral Specialists at the Eldercare Locator often hear comments such as:
I have a doctor’s appointment next week and have no way to get there
My daughter works during the day and just cannot take me (and she worries about it)
I really shouldn’t be driving, but….
I live out of town and it is very far to the doctor’s office
I have ongoing treatment appointments and I just cannot drive after them
Transportation is most often provided by family, friends and neighbors. In 2011, family caregivers provided over 1.4 billion rides.1 However, many people need and rely on formal transportation options to get around. Transportation options are often met with challenges such as services not being available in rural areas or when public routes are based on commute patterns and on destinations such as doctor’s offices for medical appointments. Just learning to navigate a public bus system may feel overwhelming to a new rider.
Although the reality is that in many areas the resources and services do not exist, Information and Referral Specialists can help to ensure that transportation resources are listed in their referral database. A taxonomy is a classification system that is used to organize the information in a database. While transportation related taxonomy listings will vary in communities, it is critical to ensure that an I&R program resource database is as comprehensive as possible. While some taxonomy services are obvious, others may not be as widely known. Taxonomy definitions for transportation may include:
- Pubic Transportation – Bus fares and Discounts
- Demand Response Transportation Services
- Driver Safety Programs
- Non-Emergency transportation
- Transportation Voucher Programs
- Travel Training Programs
- Mobility Management services
- Vehicle Conversion
- Accessible Parking Placards/License Tags
- Volunteer Transportation Programs
- One-Click Transportation Web sites
- Transportation Regulatory and Licensing Agencies
- Door-through-Door Transportation Providers
- Veteran Transportation Services
Because we are living longer and may experience chronic conditions such as vision and hearing loss, many older adults outlive their ability to drive by 10 years. 2 By listing comprehensive resource information about transportation options and services, Information and Referral Specialists are better prepared to offer information that will lead directly to a healthier life for an older non-driver. This begins by being aware of community based transportation needs and available resources, a critical component in Information and Referral programs.