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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Senior Connections, the Capital Area Agency on Aging

Learn how this agency is working with community stakeholders to promote, educate and organize regional transportation efforts that provide older adults and people with disabilities with the knowledge of and access to transportation.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Senior Connections, the Capital Area Agency on Aging's Ride Connection and Mobility Management program. The agency was a 2020 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Transportation & Mobility category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
Transportation is a documented concern for older adults, caregivers, people with disabilities and individuals with low incomes. In fact, it was the top reason people called the Eldercare Locator, a national call center and website operated by n4a with funding from the Administration for Community Living, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Designated by the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission (PlanRVA) as the Human Services Transportation Coordination Entity (HSTCE), Senior Connections, the Capital Area Agency on Aging is working to solve these problems.
 
Working as the HSTCE, Senior Connections launched a collaborative regional effort—the first of its kind—bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders committed to building a better system. The agency convened a transportation symposium for public, private, nonprofit and government transportation stakeholders to complete “A Framework for Action: A Self-Assessment Tool.” The assessment results assisted in developing a coordinated human services transportation system.
 
The ongoing collaboration between Senior Connections, PlanRVA and community stakeholders promotes, facilitates, educates and coordinates regional transportation efforts that will provide older adults and people with disabilities with information about the availability of local transportation for medical and non-medical needs.
 
In addition, Senior Connections runs the Ride Connection program, which provides point-to-point transportation services to eligible individuals over the age of 60 and people with disabilities. With almost 4,000 calls a year, ride counselors offer transportation education, travel training and referrals to local transportation providers. 
 
“Access to safe, supportive and reliable transportation services are fundamental building blocks of a healthy community and healthy individuals. In our 2020 rider survey, 99 percent of our survey respondents say that without Ride Connection, they would miss some of their medical appointments,” said Thelma Bland Watson, Executive Director at Senior Connections, the Capital Area Agency on Aging.
 
At the start of the pandemic, the agency moved Ride Connection to a web-based software system that enabled staff members to schedule rides while working outside the main office. Staff expanded the program to include not just medical appointments but to all appointments of life.
 
“We shifted the number of monthly available rides per client from two to four each month and are providing rides with no copay. Also, we quickly onboarded two new transportation providers to ensure that we had the capacity to do more during the COVID-19 pandemic and are currently looking to expand even more to include vaccination appointments,” added Watson.
 
To learn more about the Ride Connection and Mobility Management program and how you can replicate a similar program in your community, contact Thelma Bland Watson, twatson@youraaa.org.

For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices Clearinghouse page.

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