News

United We Ride: Helping to Provide Rides for Seniors

Finding rides for seniors is crucial to getting them access to proper health care, employment, social activities, and education. For many older adults, mobility and lack of available transportation contribute to isolation or a feeling of helplessness.

United We Ride (UWR), “a federal interagency initiative,” aims to improve the availability of senior transportation, so older adults have the opportunity to find low-cost, efficient transportation services in their area. 

Senior Transportation for Medical Needs

One of the biggest challenges seniors face regarding lack of transportation is the ability to receive timely medical care. It can be challenging to find rides for seniors when access to low-cost options or an accessible bus route are minimal.

This situation can lead to missed appointments, lack of proper medical care, and even life-threatening situations. And these challenges aren’t just for seniors in rural areas — In fact, many people in urban and suburban areas still “struggle to find reliable transportation” due to financial hardship or long travel distances. 

Social Interaction and Health for Seniors

One of the greatest concerns for aging adults is the lack of social interaction. The National Institute on Aging says “that social isolation may have significant adverse effects for older adults.” These effects may include loneliness that affects both physical and emotional health, or leads to depression and higher systolic blood pressure. 

Thus, providing rides for seniors could be a way to encourage social interaction with other seniors, family members, and the community. Sometimes even a simple trip to the store can help elevate someone’s mood, especially if they spend much of their day alone at home. 

A term associated with positive emotional and physical health in seniors is social capital, or “the potential of individuals to secure benefits and invent solutions to problems through membership in social networks.” Mobility is a key factor in developing greater social capital.

In fact, one study found that seniors “living in areas with greater social capital had significantly higher physical mobility scores.” This means that access to senior transportation truly does matter for overall health and wellness in older adults. The more rides for seniors, the more opportunities to build your social network. 

Getting Seniors Access to Basic Needs 

When you can drive or have easy access to transportation, the thought of securing basic needs may never occur to you. But for many seniors, simple tasks like shopping can be a struggle. 

Getting to the store is crucial for older adults to get proper nutrition for themselves and supplies for their pets. Some seniors can feel like a burden and not ask for help out of fear. With services like FACT SD, seniors have a one-stop-shop that can help them access rides to the store without feeling like they have to rely on a family member or caregiver to drive them somewhere. 

Do you or a loved one need help to find reliable rides for seniors in San Diego? Contact FACT SD today to get more information on affordable senior transportation!

October 21, 2019 / by / in ,
Getting Around: Rides for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities often struggle to find secure, safe, affordable transportation. Getting basic needs and going to-and-from medical appointments become a challenge due to lack of mobility. So, what are the options for rides for people with disabilities? And what should an individual or caregiver consider when searching for low-cost transportation options?

Public Transportation is Non-Discriminatory

It’s important to know what the laws are regarding discrimination when using programs that receive Federal Funds, regardless of mode of public transportation.

In accordance with Title VI and the US Department of Transportation, “a transit agency’s ADA complementary paratransit service, as well as its fixed-route service, must comply with Title VI.”

Paratransit, or special transportation services for people with disabilities, is meant to serve as a supplement to existing public transit systems. And Title VI ensures that all riders of transit services that offer specific ADA transportation must ensure that riders’ rights are respected. Discrimination against a rider based on their disability is not tolerated. Services like North Country Transit District and MTS both offer paratransit services as a subset to their normal transportation services.

Additionally, “states, transit agencies, and metropolitan planning organizations that pass funds through to sub-recipients must monitor their sub-recipients to ensure the sub-recipients are in compliance with equal access and non discrimination provisions of the law Rides for people with disabilities should not only be available but also be reliable and free of harassment, regardless of what organization is providing the mandated ADA  services. 

Managed mobility services like FACT SD take great care to ensure that all riders feel respected

What is Considered Specialized Transportation?

Specialized transportation is transit designed to specifically address the needs of persons with disabilities. This may also include specific services that assist seniors with transportation needs. 

To address the growing need for specialized transportation, SANDAG has created a strategic plan to improve San Diego’s transportation systems to provide better service to seniors and persons with disabilities. This includes a Regional Plan that aims to guide investments through the year 2050. 

The benefits of providing specialized transportation are immense, giving greater mobility to individuals that struggle to access reliable, fixed-route service. 

An example of specialized transportation would be mandated ADA paratransit services. This is defined as an “alternative mode of flexible passenger transportation that does not follow fixed routes or schedules, and can offer door-to-door service that is particularly important for people with disabilities.” Often, these services include modified vehicles that include lifts for people needing wheelchair access. These services may vary on the degree of flexibility that they provide their customers as they are not subject to the same guidelines as specialized services.

ADA Paratransit services must be offered by those public transportation systems that offer fixed-route service, to ensure that riders with disabilities can get to the same locations and take advantage of the same low-cost transportation given to other riders.

Examples of Specialized Transportation in San Diego

FACT SD acts as a one-stop-shop for mobility services for seniors, veterans, and any persons with disabilities.  FACT is a resource for any individual with mobility challenges who needs information about the public ADA paratransit services and numerous nonprofit and private service options available in San Diego County.

Some of these resources include:

FACT SD is proud to be a reliable source for helping find rides for people with disabilities. Want to know about all of our amazing transportation services in San Diego? Contact us today!

October 7, 2019 / by / in
Affordable Senior Transportation in San Diego

Caregivers and seniors often feel helpless when transportation services are limited, especially when it comes to keeping medical appointments. But seniors don’t have to have to feel stuck. Affordable senior transportation is available in many areas around the country, including San Diego County, through agencies like FACT.

We act as a one-stop-shop that seniors and their caregivers can use to access timely, safe, efficient transportation throughout San Diego County, including all 18 cities. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Senior Transportation Predicament

As more and more Americans are aging, they have a greater need for specialized transportation services. Demographic projections show dramatic increases in older adults needing social services and care. With this rise, there is concern over where so many aging adults will get their needs met, including transportation, which is also key to meeting all their other needs. 

Mobility Management

If you haven’t heard of mobility management services, you’re not alone. These services help communities by offering options for getting around town. Rather than provide one type of transportation service, mobility management compiles information about a wide variety of service options so that people can make empowered decisions about their transportation. 

This is especially important for seniors, as many do not know the options available. Often, if seniors don’t drive, they can feel isolated. Even if they have someone to take them places, if they have a spontaneous or more urgent need, that person may not always be available to help. 

Mobility management services are often provided by nonprofit groups that work to support their communities by educating the public, establishing partnerships with various transportation providers, and promoting easy access to transportation options. 

Affordable Senior Transportation Options

There are a number of options that mobility management services offer for seniors. Here are some of the most well-known:

Private Driving Services

Many people are turning to driving services that provide more individualized experiences, allowing seniors to run errands on their own time, rather than being subject to bus timetables. This can also be helpful for seniors that have special needs that are more difficult to accommodate public transportation. 

An example would be the services offered at Care.com, that allow you to choose from a variety of private drivers in your area, including name, experience, rates, and reviews. 

While these services are more personalized and cost-effective for occasional outings, there may be options more suitable for regular activities. 

Bus and Paratransit Services

We’re all familiar with local bus and rail that provide affordable transportation, which can still be a great option for older adults who can navigate the public transportation system.

For those that may need more specialized assistance, there is ADA paratransit: reasonably priced, curb-to-curb transportation service that allows people to travel to the same areas that other public transportation goes. 

Contracted Transportation Services

For seniors that are a part of a senior living community or specialized senior support groups, there may be transportation services already a part of an agency’s offerings. This is worth looking into, as they often offer lower rates than private transportation services and can suit a wider variety of unique senior transportation needs. 

With so many options, it may be hard to know the best route to take, literally and figuratively. FACT is here to help. Contact us with questions about booking a ride or finding the right affordable senior transportation for you or your loved one. 

RideFACT

RideFACT is operated by FACT for individuals who are not able to use the transportation options listed above. When it is not possible to connect a senior to any other mobility option in the County, FACT will offer transportation via its own service named RideFACT.  

This is a curb-to-curb, affordable, and convenient transportation service that covers all San Diego County. It is available between 7 am and 8 pm on weekdays. The fare begins at $2.50 for shorter rides and companions can ride for free. 

FACT is a nonprofit based in Oceanside and designated by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) as the Consolidated Transportation Service Agency (CTSA) for San Diego County. We strive to ensure that reliable transportation is accessible to all San Diego County residents. Contact us to learn more about finding your next ride!

September 16, 2019 / by / in ,
Seniors are driving safer, driving longer

Americans love to drive. More than 75 percent of adults carry a driver’s license, including 40 million who are 65 and older. But driving is more than just a passion or a pastime: It’s a lifeline. Studies show that giving up driving increases a person’s mortality risk and makes seniors more likely to land in nursing homes and suffer from depression. Yet the average American man outlives his ability to drive by six years; the average American woman, by 10 years.

So it’s not surprising that older people are reluctant to stop driving. “Seniors do not want to talk about or think about when they can’t drive,” says Sandi Rosenbloom, a professor of community and regional planning at the University of Texas at Austin. “I’ve done dozens of focus groups in seven different countries. If you ask seniors anywhere, ‘When do you think you won’t be able to drive?’ they will uniformly say about 10 years from whenever you ask. It doesn’t matter what age they are when you ask. They can be 80!”

Some of us do manage to drive well into what geriatricians call “oldest-old” age: More than 3.5 million Americans 85 and older currently hold a driver’s license. At 95, Eldon Bartlett is one of them. Bartlett, whose first car was a Model T, still pilots his 22-foot Gulf Stream motor home on annual trips between his home in Portland, Ore., and an RV park in Arizona, where he visits friends near Phoenix and plays cribbage.

It would be wonderful if everyone could count on Bartlett’s good fortune—and good genes. Eventually, though, physical or cognitive limitations (or both) make driving safely difficult or impossible for most older people, compelling them to hang up their car keys for good.

The problem is that most of them have no other way of getting around. Almost three-quarters of seniors live in areas with few—if any—transportation alternatives, which means their options for remaining mobile begin and end in their own driveway.

All of this amounts to a senior transportation predicament that will only grow more urgent with the arrival of the Silver Tsunami, a demographic monster wave that will swell the 65-and-older population to a projected 74 million in 2030 from 46 million in 2015.

Though it may at times seem effortless, driving is a complex task that requires, among other things, healthy cognition and good flexibility. (Think about craning your neck to check your blind spot.) A long list of medical conditions common to seniors may impair both. Fourteen percent of Americans ages 71 and older experience some type of dementia; Alzheimer’s disease affects about a third of the population 85 and older.

Many more common medical conditions can also limit the ability to drive, including chronic pain, diabetic neuropathy, failing vision, and osteoarthritis.

Even the drugs we use to treat medical conditions—painkillers, antidepressants, and sleeping pills, for example—can interfere with safe driving. Almost 30 percent of the seniors in one study were taking at least five prescription medications.

Defying the Stereotypes

All of the challenges that come with aging might lead you to assume that seniors represent a special menace behind the wheel. But data prove that this assumption is fundamentally wrong. Decades of statistics show that crash rates per mile driven are highest for the youngest drivers (ages 16 to 19), though they do begin to tick up steadily once drivers roll past age 70. But even at 85, senior drivers crash less often, per mile, than teens. And when they do, seniors are largely a danger to themselves.

Older adults don’t get enough credit for their safe driving habits, says Emmy Betz, M.D., M.P.H., an emergency room physician and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who researches senior-driving safety.

“Older drivers are more likely to use seat belts and follow speed limits,” Betz says. “They are less likely to drive at night or while intoxicated, or to text while they drive.” Many seniors also regulate their driving behavior, limiting their trips at night, on highways, or during rush hour.

Public suspicion of older drivers isn’t based on facts or research but on a nonclinical factor: ageism. That’s the assertion—and that’s the word—put forward in a 300-page evidence-based handbook, “The Clinician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers,” that was revised last year by the American Geriatrics Society and published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This ageism extends all the way to our laws. Thirty-two states impose special registration burdens based on age, such as more frequent or in-person license renewals, and medical approval and vision tests. Maine requires vision screening for drivers once they reach 40; drivers 75 and older must pass a road test to renew their license in Illinois; and in Washington, D.C., drivers 70 and older need to have their physician sign off on their license renewal.

The effectiveness of these interventions, however, appears to be limited. A 2014 study in the journal Injury Epidemiology concluded that no policy it examined significantly reduced fatal crashes for drivers younger than 85.

Two policies did reduce fatality rates considerably for the most senior drivers: in-person renewals and additional vision tests in states without in-person renewal requirements. Researchers speculate that these policies work because they provide an opportunity to identify drivers with functional deficits and refer them to further screening (possibly leading to the denial of a license). Alternatively, some seniors who rightly fear they may not pass the screening may simply not renew their license and discontinue driving.

Researchers say that a quick and accurate doctor’s office screen has proved difficult to design. Though many people experience diminished vision, cognition, or motor skills as they age, those deficits occur at wildly different rates and degrees. Some 79-year-olds are hiking the Appalachian Trail; others find it impossible to climb a flight of stairs.

Testing these two populations the same way is futile, according to David Carr, M.D., who has been developing driver-screening tools at Washington University Physicians, where he’s the clinical director of geriatrics.

“The average older driver might crash or fail a road test less than 10 percent of the time,” Carr says, but the failure rate will be much higher for patients with dementia or a history of strokes. Which means that rather than relying on age, a worthwhile screening tool needs to start by assessing a driver’s individual health and risk factors.

Just six states require physicians to report potentially dangerous patients to state licensing authorities and medical advisory boards; the rest make such reporting voluntary. Last year Florida, which doesn’t require physician reporting, revoked almost 6,700 licenses for medical incapacity or failure to provide a requested medical form. It pulled almost 3,900 drivers off the road for failing a vision test or neglecting to supply a vision report.

Still, the case for stronger laws is a weak one. The latest study, in The Gerontologist, a medical journal, failed to find a corresponding reduction in emergency room admission rates in states that require doctors to report potentially dangerous older drivers.

Richard Marottoli, M.D., a professor and geriatrician at Yale University, counsels patients on driving cessation but understands why overtaxed general practitioners might shrink from the task. “The conversation is emotionally fraught,” he says. “It can put them in a different relationship. Instead of being a patient advocate, they become a patient adversary.” The bogeyman in a white coat coming for your keys.

Staying in the Driver’s Seat

Clues for ways to keep seniors on the road longer and safer could well come from a major new longitudinal study called LongROAD. The 5- to 10-year project, coordinated by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, is following 3,000 seniors at five sites across the U.S. Volunteers submitted their full medical and driving records, were interviewed, and allowed tracking devices to be installed in their vehicles. Over time, these trip logs should provide researchers with insights on matters great and small. What time of the day do crashes occur, at what speeds, and on what types of roads? What medications were the drivers taking at the time? Do moving violations predict accidents?

But there’s plenty we already know. “You absolutely can help people drive longer,” says Betz, the Colorado emergency room doctor.

In terms of what you can do on your own, studies have found that cardiovascular exercise can slow cognitive decline, and that strength and flexibility programs can improve senior performance on driving metrics like neck rotation and response speed. Continuing-education programs probably can’t hurt. (See “How to Keep Driving Skills Sharp.”)

Senior drivers may also benefit from working with a driver rehabilitation specialist, a person trained to assess a driver’s abilities and recommend practical retraining, adaptive devices, and sensible driving restrictions. In shorthand, an occupational therapist with wheels.

Kathy Woods is a certified driver rehabilitation specialist who directs four colleagues at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, a complex on the western border of Minneapolis. They see about 1,000 patients per year, most of them older adults. Many arrive with referrals from doctors or caregivers; some come on their own. Last winter her team assisted a client who was 101 years old.

The 3-hour evaluation is a daunting audit that begins with the same general cognitive and memory tests that a neurologist might administer, followed by a thorough vision screening.

A simulated-driving segment presents video road hazards, and multiple-choice questions assess the driver’s judgment and knowledge of traffic rules. A gas/brake apparatus gauges reaction time. At the end of the appraisal, Woods takes the client out on the streets.

What clues does she look for? “Going through a red light, going through a stop sign, weaving and drifting,” Woods says. “The more subtle ones might be stopping at a stop sign and not taking their turn when it’s time to go, or stopping at an intersection when they don’t need to.”

A 2010 observational study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older drivers commit a greater number of minor errors (such as failing to signal) and dangerous ones (failing to stop at a red light) than middle-aged drivers do.

Prospective clients often ask Woods what the program’s “success rate” is. It’s not a term she likes. Success, as she defines it, can mean helping a client return to driving, continue driving—or never get behind the wheel again.

Shari Peterson, a 69-year-old professor who recently got a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, fell into the last category after being evaluated.

“I sobbed for 2 minutes,” Peterson recalls. “Then I said, I’m okay. My grieving lasted only about a day.”

Peterson’s grace is atypical, Woods says. Many seniors with dementia or other memory impairment reject the test results or demand another assessment. They’re skeptical; they’re angry.

“There is a grieving process with this major life change,” Woods says. “Some accept the outcome more quickly, while others struggle longer.”

Peterson’s son Brian, 39, says he was impressed that his mother “was willing to take the initiative to stop driving instead of making it a fight.” It took the pressure off him.

Adult children often see a driving “retirement” not only as a threat to a parent’s independence but also a threat to their own.

“Adult children tell me all the time, ‘I don’t want to do to my child what my parents have done to me,’” Rosenbloom says. “They get stressed; they often have to move their parent out of the home they’ve lived in for decades because there are no transportation services nearby.”

Peterson’s equanimity helped her adapt. Friends now pick her up for shopping trips. “I’ve been having a lot of lunches out—you can get around,” she says. She’d always considered herself an independent woman, but she recently concluded that “the people I love, they take joy from helping me.”

Now and again she still gets to ride in her car, a Mazda6. But now she sits in the passenger seat and her son drives. This reversal still feels “surreal” to him, he says. “One day you’re independent, and the next day you’re not.”

It would be a mistake to think of a driver rehabilitation specialist as someone whose job is to usher you away from your car. Plenty of seniors need to cease driving for a time after a major health event: a knee or hip replacement, for example, or open-heart surgery, chemotherapy, or a stroke. What may not be clear is when and how to get back on the road.

Mike Grein, 70, is another client of Woods’ practice. With her help he regained the confidence to drive after a serious collision (he wasn’t at fault) and a grueling series of surgeries kept him out of the driver’s seat for two years.

During his recovery period, Grein relied on his wife, Nancy, to get around town. When he said he wanted to start driving again, she arranged for him to meet with Woods.

Woods divides driving into different functions, and with Grein, she says, “the majority of them looked strong.”

“I was champing at the bit,” he says about his return to driving.

Now when the couple travel to visit their son, Nancy will be the one to pilot their car through Atlanta traffic. But during their vacation in Alaska, “I would just as soon get behind the wheel,” Grein says.

Driver rehabilitation specialists provide an urgently needed service. They’re also in short supply. States including Arkansas and Alaska have zero certified driver rehabilitation specialists, and Texas and California offer fewer than one for every 1.5 million people.

The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists has a searchable database of specialists on its website, aded.net. Insurance coverage for the service is limited, and seniors generally must pay out of pocket. A comprehensive driving assessment costs about $400 to $600.

When the time to retire from driving does come, most people discover that they have far fewer options than they had expected.

Some invest their hopes in the little white vans they see around the neighborhood: that is, paratransit. But what we know about paratransit—the federally mandated service for people with disabilities—is mostly wrong, according to Rosenbloom. It operates only near established public bus routes, which means it’s a limited resource in most suburbs. And its use is restricted to people who can’t reach regular public transportation because of a disability. Being unable to walk is a disability; being old is not. Neither is being unable to drive. Ultimately, Americans over the age of 70 make less than 0.5 percent of their trips on public paratransit.

Self-driving automobiles could one day help some seniors remain on the road for as long as they’re able to get into and out of a car, but that day is probably still years—maybe decades—away. And though ride services like Lyft and Uber have made finding transportation easier than ever for many, they still present serious limitations for seniors. (See “Not Taken for a Ride.”)

A City Full of Solutions

If senior transportation is a riddle, experts say that at least part of the solution can be found in Portland, Ore., at the headquarters of Ride Connection, a nonprofit “mobility manager.” Last year it provided 559,000 rides to seniors and people with disabilities.

“Mobility management” means different things in different locales. It can be little more than a website that posts the schedule of a neighborhood senior shuttle or a social worker in a healthcare facility who helps seniors make it to their chemotherapy appointments. The broader idea is to enable older people to find the transportation options that exist in their community and then help them get where they need to go.

Ride Connection is a groundbreaker in the field: a team of 96 employees in a new modernist office building (plus six satellite sites), all devoted to moving clients around metropolitan Portland. Documentary photo portraits, at a heroic scale, line the walls of the call center: a tattooed woman in a crowd with her service dog; a pair of elderly women embracing. These images are a constant reminder to the staff of the people they’re working for.

Each month more than 200 new customers call in to talk with a travel counselor. Over the course of a 30- or 60-minute call, the counselor will record where the customer regularly goes, describe what types of transit are available, and pass him or her along to a scheduler who books pickups and drop-offs on community shuttles across metropolitan Portland.

To the uninitiated, the logistics can be challenging. For example, a senior caller may need to travel to a doctor’s appointment from his daughter’s house in suburban Beaverton, then catch a ride to a mosque in southeast Portland before heading back home.

Fulfilling that itinerary demands close listening and careful networking. Some rides are fulfilled by staff, volunteers, or a partner social service agency. Or Ride Connection may reimburse a neighbor who regularly provides a lift to the grocery store. It also operates its own fleet of accessible vans, which volunteers can drive. Ultimately, the organization’s approach to mobility management is less like a silver bullet and more like buckshot. The staff members try whatever works.

It helps that Portland has mobility options to manage: TriMet, the regional transit agency, operates almost 80 bus lines, five light-rail lines, and a commuter rail system. The city has streetcar routes and an aerial tram that resembles an Airstream trailer on a ski-hill tow rope.

Ride Connection operates on an annual budget of about $9 million, including almost $2.3 million from TriMet. At the same time, diverting elderly and disabled passengers from pricey paratransit services saved TriMet $10 million in 2015-16.

“They move the masses. We move individual community members,” says COO Julie Wilcke, who started out 25 years ago as a volunteer driver. (Ride Connection had to turn down 35,000 valid ride requests last year for lack of funding.)

If those seniors can manage to take TriMet buses, all the better. The challenge is that a 76-year-old who has never ridden a bus in her life may not feel inclined to start. What changes someone’s mind, according to Dennis McCarthy, a senior transportation expert at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, is trying it.

One of Ride Connection’s programs is called Rider’s Club: It offers monthly field trips for seniors on the city bus line. They go for the cultural outings and return with practical travel training. After three such tours, more than 90 percent of participants say they would “consider the bus for everyday living activities,” Wilcke says.

Avonne Dressler first called Ride Connection after she saw one of its vans with the phone number on the side parked outside the senior center in Forest Grove, a farming community and college town on the route west from Portland to the Pacific Coast.

“My husband did all the driving,” Dressler said recently over lunch at the senior center with six of her friends. She married at age 18 when her husband returned from service in WWII and, like many of her contemporaries, never learned to drive.

After Dressler’s husband suffered a brain bleed in 1997, she became his co-pilot. This involved calling out objects on the right side, which he could no longer see, and acting as his navigator. The beginning of Alzheimer’s was the end of her husband’s driving.

Dressler and her husband struggled to adapt to their new life without a car. “I don’t think you ever are ready to lose an ability to be on your own,” she said.

Dressler, 89, has been a widow for eight years. “I don’t just wither on the vine,” she said. Daily service from Ride Connection helps make that possible. It shuttles her to the senior center for lunch and on Fridays to the Hair House, where she has kept a standing weekly appointment since 1981. On Saturdays she goes grocery shopping with her daughter and then to lunch.

Of the seven people at the table, the youngest was 77 years old, and everyone but Dressler was still driving. The oldest, at 95, was the Gulf Stream owner, Eldon Bartlett, who recalled that he once had a fender-bender.

“I ran into the side of a ’38 Ford and had to buy him a new hubcap,” Bartlett said. When lunch ended, he offered me a ride to the train station, 8½ miles away. I accepted with nary a hesitation.

Planning for the Future

Most of us understand that we need to plan for a time when we surrender our car. But very few of us actually prepare for that eventuality, says Marottoli, the Yale professor. “We should but we don’t,” he says. “It’s not unique to this situation or age group.”

It was all the more exceptional, then, to meet the future occupants of a new 27-unit development called PDX Commons in Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood. One of the project’s planners, a retired documentary filmmaker named Jim Swenson, 73, walked me around the bohemian streetscape.

The number 15 bus stopped in front of the new residence every 7 to 15 minutes before rumbling downtown. This being Portland, the retail offerings down the street include a video-rental shop (90,000 titles), a bespoke hatter, and a storefront advertising children’s ukulele lessons. Swenson can also walk easily to a grocery store, a public library, and a pharmacy. Someone had counted 175 places to get a meal within a 1-mile radius. A future Commoner had already cashiered her Volvo and parked some of the proceeds in a new bike.

After its midyear opening, Swenson said, PDX Commons would become the first “co-housing” community in Portland dedicated to seniors. Each buyer will own a self-contained condominium, and some 5,000 square feet have been given over to shared amenities: a commercial kitchen, a 50-seat dining hall (which could double as a yoga studio), a wet bar, and suites for overnight guests that could also become rooms for healthcare attendants. Instead of driving to find a community, these seniors plan to build one under their own roof.

Co-housing communities were originally inspired by intentional communities in Denmark called bofaellesskaber (or “living together”). The Cohousing Association of the United States lists a dozen completed senior communities, with the greatest number being in California and New Mexico. Another two are under construction, and a dozen more hope to graduate from the planning stage.

The monthly potluck dinner Swenson and his wife, Janet Gillaspie, often attend is filled with a prosperous and progressive crowd in their late 50s, 60s, and 70s. Two midwives, an auto executive, and a Lutheran bishop were among the Commoners at a gathering last winter. When they talked about driving into old age, many had recently observed the trajectory of their senescent parents.

Gillaspie’s mother and father developed dementia in their early 80s. They had just built a new showpiece home. They had thought ahead, locating the master bedroom and a bathroom on the main floor.

What they seemingly hadn’t considered was that the house with the beautiful view would be isolated, an hour north of Portland. Without a car they would be stuck there. That’s what happened, and that’s where they remained until relocating last year to a residential-care facility.

“It doesn’t take a huge amount of personal experience to imagine what aging is going to be like,” Gillaspie said. “If you don’t make a plan, a plan will be made for you.”

At 61, she’s still working as an environmental consultant. She can’t predict how the experiment of PDX Commons will turn out. But it looks like a pretty good plan, she said. One that she has made for herself.

October 31, 2018 / by / in
Ride service aims to fill local transportation gaps

SOLANA BEACH — Solana Beach resident James Walker, 19, knows his public transit — since graduating high school, he has used a hodgepodge of Amtrak, Coaster, and North County Transit District bus services to get to work, college and physical therapy.

But when NCTD cut the FLEX bus service from Solana Beach to MiraCosta’s San Elijo campus last year, Walker — who has a mild form of autism and non-verbal learning disorder — and his mother, Mary Turk, were stuck with few options for getting Walker to his classes. Turk, who was studying at the time, couldn’t drive Walker to school, and other local services or transit options were either too inflexible or too expensive.

Turk was able to get in touch with City Councilwoman Jewel Edson, who is on the board of directors of Facilitating Access to Coordinated Transportation. Edson recommended that Turk try RideFACT, a service built and managed by FACT.

FACT is the San Diego Association of Government’s designated Consolidated Transportation Service Agency — tasked with maintaining a database of transportation options to recommend to callers in need of service. But in 2010, FACT went one step further and developed a “dial-a-ride” service for seniors, persons with disabilities, veterans and the income disadvantaged. Labeled “RideFACT,” the service has partnered with more than a dozen different transportation vendors, now including Yellow Cab and Lyft. In 2012, they were able to expand the program to all 18 cities in San Diego County.

RideFACT has purchased about twenty, wheelchair-accessible vehicles to provide to vendors. Vendors are able to make use of the vehicles in exchange for providing three rides for RideFACT, which helps attract more drivers to the service. Courtesy photo by Budd Anderson

 

 

 

According to FACT’s executive director, Arun Prem, FACT is a “catch-all” for anyone who has “transportation barriers,” including people with disabilities who may not qualify for paratransit services.

Riders are able to call FACT and schedule trips seven days in advance. Fares range from $2.50 for short trips under five miles to $10.00 for trips over 20 miles. The cost is “heavily subsidized” by FACT, Prem said, with the average trip costing the nonprofit $12 to $13.

Originally a “bunch of activists” faced with what they saw as a gap in transit services, FACT employees built a program based on rising and falling demand — much like Uber but “less tech-based,” Prem said. They also don’t set the rate for vendors.

“We let them propose their rates because we want all of these (vendors) to compete against each other.”

When a rider calls the center to request a ride from say, Solana Beach to Chula Vista, RideFACT uses a “glorified spreadsheet” to calculate the rates of various vendors willing to make that particular trip, and find the cheapest one by default. As a result, they can serve more riders, more efficiently.

“It’s very cost-effective,” Prem said. Prem, who has worked for a number of transportation agencies, said there’s nothing quite like RideFACT in San Diego, or the nation for that matter.

For Turk and Walker, RideFACT was a “lifesaver,” allowing Walker to get from home to school, school to physical therapy and back with few glitches, for $2.50 per leg. Among their only qualms with the program is having to plan a week in advance.

According to Prem, RideFACT is limited in its spontaneity, both because of a lack of funding, and an increase in demand — which has risen by 24 percent in the last year.

“We’re at capacity,” he said.

RideFACT, which is based in Oceanside, is funded by a pair of competitive two-year grants administered through SANDAG — a Federal Transit Administration grant for Enhanced Mobility of Seniors & Individuals with Disabilities (Section 5310), and a Senior Mini Grant derived from the county’s TransNet sales tax proceeds. However, the program does not run on any “sustainable,” long-term funding, according to Prem.

As a result, RideFACT has branched out in order to help augment its funding source, partnering with Tri-City Medical Center in 2016 in order to pick up patients after discharge and transport them to their homes using Lyft. They have also purchased some vehicles and allowed vendors to use them free of cost in exchange for doing three rides for RideFACT — which ultimately helps lower cost by attracting more drivers.

Prem, who knows many of the program’s frequent riders by name, said RideFACT gives self-reliance to many who formerly had few to no other transportation options beyond family or friends.

Turk calls her experience finding transit options for Walker a “real education,” but said that RideFACT was “a hero” for filling the missing niche in Walker’s transportation routine.

“It gives him a really strong sense of independence, that he’s doing it on his own,” she said.

October 31, 2018 / by / in ,
Translate »