Senior Ride Nashville Prevents Isolation, Connects Riders & Drivers
Social isolation is an increasingly common challenge for seniors nationwide. Getting to doctor's appointments, accessing nutritious foods and simply engaging with others is particularly difficult for those who no longer drive or who do not have easy access to transportation.
In Nashville, there are 30,000 residents who are 75 years or older. In fact, it's projected that 22 percent of Tennesseans will be 65 or older by 2020, creating a need for greater social support statewide. That's exactly what Senior Ride Nashville is doing. The 501(c)3 was created in 2017 by the Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee and the Senior Transportation Leadership Coalition with strong support from the local community. The organization has given seniors more than 4,500 trips since its November 2017 launch.
Executive director Carrie Brumfield said the organization's objective is to connect older adults who no longer drive with volunteers who do. "Transportation has been one of the biggest unmet needs for seniors in Davidson County for decades," Brumfield said. "The Coalition spent two years researching other models around the country and created a plan to help older adults maintain their independence and dignity while improving quality of life."
According to Brumfield, older adults typically live six to 10 years after they stop driving, and reduced mobility puts seniors at higher risk for illness, isolation, loneliness, food scarcity and depression.
"This is the reason a group of leaders stepped up to find solutions to support all of us as we age," she said. "It's something we will all face, and we need to work together to create solutions."
Filling a Need
Today, Senior Ride Nashville has 95 drivers who transport adults over age 60 to doctors' appointments, grocery stores and community centers - or anywhere else they need to go. Seniors pay a yearly $25 membership fee and $6 per round trip. Outings can last up to three hours and are scheduled a week or more in advance.
To be considered for eligibility, riders receive an in-home assessment from a partnering home health agency to ensure they can transfer in and out of a vehicle with limited assistance. Brumfield said that the first year of the program exceeded expectations and that interest from potential riders remains high. In fact, the organization is looking for more volunteers to help drive the increasing number of riders.
"Our drivers are also people looking to stay connected in the community and to give back," she said. "We're relying on the community to support this, because expansion depends on the willingness of volunteer drivers to come forward and participate. It's a wonderful and easy way to give back."
Senior Ride Nashville currently serves riders in Hermitage, Donelson, Old Hickory, Madison, West Nashville and East Nashville, with gradual expansion planned to meet the entire county's needs. For more information on becoming a volunteer or to refer a senior, go online to SeniorRideNashville.org.