Transportation Issues for Seniors in Darien

On September 28 The Human Services Planning Council help a Senior Summit. Here are the results of the transportation workshop.

Senior Summit
Transportation Workshop Results

Held Friday, September 28, 2007

Existing Transportation for Seniors:
· Gallivant – runs M-F, 9 – 4, suggested donation - $5. Has wheelchair lift, door-to-door service, will run people from home to anywhere in Darien, Stamford, Norwalk. Must make appointment day ahead. Must be able to get to van from front door.
o Driven by professional drivers who work part-time
o Administered by Darien Social Services.
o Has a state grant to expand services but is limited in using the grant because it could make the p.t. employees full-time, thus requiring benefits. Grant still not used. But could be used for trips or expanded services via another part-time employee.
o Board says that weekend and evening rides have been offered but were undersubscribed.
o Biggest Challenge – low demand
· Red Cross – private car or van driven by volunteers takes people to medical appointments. Volunteers available on MWF to take calls for appointments. Must be ambulatory and be able to get to the car from front door.
o Provides 1,000 rides per year.
o Biggest Challenge – need more volunteer drivers
· Norwalk Transit District (CT Transit) – Runs buses from Westport to Greenwich. Anyone who is disabled and living in Stamford or within ¾ of a mile from a main route in Darien can get door-to-door service on a special van. Rides are $2.50. Must get tickets for rides in advance. (Americans with Disabilities Act is catalyst for this service.)
o Seniors in Darien could take the bus along Route 1, but tend not to.
o Biggest challenge – underutilized.
· Churches have volunteers that drive their own members of the congregations to church services and activities.
· Family and Children’s Agency (“FCA”) – has a grant to provide transportation to people over 60. Uses car and van to deliver services – will take people shopping, to activities or to medical appointments. Free to low income people. Charges fee to everyone else. Fees for everything ranging from homemakers to handymen are $20/hour. They serve all of Fairfield County. Drivers are vetted. Driving is available by appointment and is available night and day.
o Challenge – getting the word out.
· The Darien Library delivers books.
· Note by State Senator Bob Duff – state funding is available to help with transportation needs. He wants people to contact him about their needs.
Needs, Gaps, Questions and Ideas from other towns

· Seniors reluctant or can’t drive at night.
· How do they define night?
· What alternatives would they be willing to use?
· Need for transportation at night to take seniors to cultural events at the Library and other places.
· Post 53 gets calls from people who would like transportation to medical appointments. They refer them to Red Cross or to private ambulette services.
· How to use state grant for transportation and Gallivant?
· First Selectwoman Evonne Klein pointed out that Westport had a program to take Vets to the Veterans’ Hospital. Maybe we could piggyback or get a grant to set up a point of central communications about transportation via SWRPA.
· Greenwich -- At Home in Greenwich, based on Beacon Hill, is positioned as a social club and is starting up and is looking into programs that work in their own community.
· Greenwich has call-a-ride – discount for seniors to take taxis.
o But there is reluctance for seniors to take the taxis at night. Belief is that they are underutilized due to fear.
o Call a ride may lease vans in future.
· Transportation Association of Greenwich (“TAG”) runs shuttles to trains and provides call-a-ride.
· Education needed about what is available, such as the bus.
· Need to understand why seniors don’t want to take public transportation or any of the transportation options that are underutilized. What are they doing, if they don’t drive?
· Library and other organizations need to find out who isn’t coming and how to get them to programs at nights.
· Questions that are being and should be asked:
o DCA can ask members what transportation needs really are and why seniors don’t use what is already being offered.
o Gallivant can ask its users and non-users the same thing.
o What word-of-mouth is going on among seniors about transportation?
o In a perfect world, would seniors take taxis, if they were free? Why or why not?
o Is there a stigma to using Gallivant?
o What fears do seniors have?
o Is coming home to a deserted house at night a deterrent to going to night time activities?
· The Red Cross does shopping for the home-bound, as does Rotary in Westport?
o What other organizations do things or could do things for seniors?
· We need private/public cooperation and pooling of resources.
· Need to make maps of bus routes and bus stops easily available.
· Could a campaign of neighborliness be started? Help a senior? Help each other?
· Could we have a “Safe Rides” for seniors?
· Could we have a social event to introduce services?
· What is Portland, ME, doing with its transportation for seniors program?
· What can SWRPA tell us?
· Can we have a program that transports all types of people? Kids to activities, as well as seniors, to reduce stigma?

Next Steps
· Send this summary to workshop attendees
· Workshop attendees volunteered to look into:
o What New Canaan, Stamford and Greenwich are doing that works for senior transportation. Why does it work?
o Red Cross, DCA and Library will ask seniors why they don’t use transportation services that exist and what they would like instead (if anything).
· We will meet again and share the results of the individual research.