Learning to Ride Mass Transit Equals Independence for Older People

Eleven older people boarded a Fairfax County (VA) Connector bus for a run-through of something that seems, on the face of it, so simple: how to get from Point A to Point B using the region’s network of buses and Metrorail. But as Jeanna Muhoro, an official with Fairfax County’s community outreach services, explained bus schedules, peak fares, how to transfer, and how to manage SmarTrip card accounts, it became apparent that navigating a mass transit system is anything but simple. That’s especially true for people who have spent most of their lives driving. Muhoro, an outreach coordinator with Fairfax County’s Human Services Transportation in the county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, was running a three-hour, hands-on training course for older people on the ins and outs of using buses and Metro. Advocates and government officials who assist older people say the training is especially critical as demographics shift the United States’ median age upward. “It’s a very important intervention that can help older people stay connected to their communities,” said Virginia Dize, co-director of the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, which is funded by the federal government and administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

“Transportation comes up as a high-priority area because if you want older people to live and thrive in their communities, they must have good transportation,” Dize said. For older people, the need to drive often is tied to their desire to grow old in their own homes, something 90 percent of the population would like to do, surveys say. Take away the ability to drive and you take away their independence and bring them that much closer to having to leave their homes. Giving up the keys means 15 percent fewer doctor visits, almost 60 percent fewer outings to shop and 65 percent fewer trips for social, family, religious or other reasons, according to a study cited by Dize.

Source/more: Washington Post

David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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