I take for granted my freedom to get up and go. A lot of us take our ease of travel for granted. If we want to go to the grocery, visit friends, or see a doctor, we hop in the car and drive. Our only concern may be which route to take.
Recently I read a new study that highlights a sad reality: Many of our neighbors don’t have transportation, and it’s impacting their physical and mental health. Nationally, 21 percent of people 65 and older do not drive, and that number climbs to nearly 40 percent for older adults who are Black, Latino or Asian. Instead, they rely on friends and family, public transportation, taxis or Ubers, or other services like CICOA’s Way2Go transportation service in Indianapolis.
Ongoing senior transportation needs here in Central Indiana
Over the last 12 months, CICOA provided more than 30,000 rides, and 65 percent of those riders were Black. When we look at these numbers alone, it’s clear that diversity, equity and inclusion must be part of our conversation to effectively serve the community.
Our clients’ greatest ongoing transportation needs are for dialysis treatments and medical appointments. We also saw a big jump during COVID-19 for requests for rides to the grocery store. Think about that for a minute. Your neighbors don’t have a way to buy groceries.
Imagine that you live alone, can’t drive, don’t live near a bus stop, don’t have wheels. How do you get to the store, to appointments, to see friends? Yes, I know, there are apps for that. But the same demographic that can’t drive also is least likely to own a smart phone or computer.
Consider 93-year-old Cordie, twice widowed, mother of four, who worked 25 years on the assembly line at Western Electric making telephones. Like you and me, she used to take transportation for granted. Now she relies on Way2Go to get around.
What if she didn’t have this service? Without transportation, it’s easy to see how older adults could struggle with isolation and loneliness, which leads to depression and other mental health issues.
Over the past year, more than a third of the calls to CICOA’s Aging & Disability Resource Center were from people seeking mental health services. More than 900 of our 15,000 care-managed clients reported a mental health diagnosis, and 30 percent of them are Black.
Take action to make sure seniors have transit options
Those of us in the aging network have sounded the alarm for decades about the need for transportation among older and more vulnerable populations. As a community, we’ve got to find solutions. We need to ensure transportation options are affordable, accessible, and accommodating for people with mobility challenges. We need state and federal lawmakers to make funding transportation for the most vulnerable populations as important as funding infrastructure improvements. These services must include options for socialization and volunteering, in addition to transportation for basic needs.
It’s a big ask, and that’s why I’m reaching out to you, to help amplify the message that seniors need more transit options. I’d love to say yes to every person who called Way2Go for rides, but we simply don’t have the funds or capacity today. We have a great network with more than two dozen other transportation providers, but the story is similar for each of us. To meet the transit needs of an expanding older adult population, we need more funds and more options. It’s really that simple.
You can give the gift of freedom to Central Indiana seniors who are living in isolation. We need your help to meet this critical need and provide transportation service.
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.