Getting out of the House Is Good for Your Health, but Many Older Hoosiers Feel Stranded

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If you have your own vehicle, I want you to do a little experiment with me.

Look at your calendar for the next couple of weeks. Now, imagine that you don’t have a vehicle, you don’t live within walking distance of a bus stop, and you have only enough money for the basics, nothing extra. How will you get to your appointments?

It’s a dilemma thousands of Hoosiers face every day.

Getting basic needs and medical care when you don’t have transportation

When I heard recently of an approaching winter storm, I jumped in my car to stock up on milk, eggs and anything else I wanted. I wasn’t alone. The store was packed.

But I knew there were more people at home wondering whether they had enough to get by during the storm, knowing that some of the services they depend upon—such as community meal sites— would be closed during bad weather.

It makes me think of Janillia. She has multiple myeloma and needs weekly chemotherapy. Her doctor told her to reduce her stress. Yep, imagine the stress of trying to figure out how you’re going to get to weekly chemo when you can’t drive and are in a wheelchair. A private transportation company was going to charge her $120 per appointment.

Thankfully, CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions was able to arrange transportation through our Way2Go program. We’ve helped relieve some of the stress she was facing.

Statistics on senior transportation services in Central Indiana

As much as I’d love to offer transportation to every Hoosier in Central Indiana who needs it, the funding received simply isn’t adequate to meet the demand of those in need. For example, funding reimburses providers for trips made within county lines at 100 percent; however, if you reside in Hancock County and your physician’s office is in Marion County, a portion of that round-trip isn’t reimbursed at 100 percent.  This creates more barriers and makes accessing transportation services more challenging. 

In addition, funding is generally designated for necessary medical trips but lacks support for social care and wellness trips, such as to weekly worship services or wellness activities that are held at community centers or fitness centers.

In 2022, CICOA completed an organizational evaluation with the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community. In it, survey respondents indicated that our Way2Go transportation service allows them to live the life they choose. However, utilizing the service for reasons other than medical appointments was low.

82%

said Way2Go helps them live more independently

65%

have used Way2Go to attend medical appointments

25%

have used Way2Go for medications or groceries

37%

have used Way2Go to foster social connectedness and engage in social activity

We need your help to fill the gaps in senior transportation

Let’s go back to your calendar, if you don’t have a vehicle, you don’t have a fat bank account, then you can forget about going to Bible study, book club, or getting a haircut. Everything else you wanted to do is off the table, too.

When people are isolated, loneliness creeps in. Lonely people are at a higher risk of developing anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. This is a real problem that I have spent a lot of time advocating with local foundations and individual donors to help fill these gaps and unmet needs.   

That’s only a short-term solution, of course, but it made a difference for Janillia. We also need to look at long-term solutions, because this issue is going to get worse if we don’t have funding mechanisms in place to help.

Nationally, 21 percent of adults 65 and older do not drive. As we’ve heard many times, our population is aging. Even if the percentage of older adults who can’t drive stays the same, the number of individuals impacted will increase.

Let’s imagine we live in a perfect world. What is your solution to make sure older adults and people with disabilities can get where they need to go?


FILL THE NEED

Give rides to seniors


CICOA President and CEO Tauhric Brown
Tauhric Brown

As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.


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