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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability Provides Door-Through-Door Transportation Services

Learn how this AAA works with volunteer drivers to offer door-through-door transportation services to older adults in West Tennessee.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2019 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on the Southwest Tennessee Development District/Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability's MyRide West Tennessee program. The agency was a 2019 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Transportation and Mobility category.
 
MyRide West Tennessee is a volunteer-assisted, door-through-door transportation service that provides rides to adults age 60 and older who need assistance getting to locations in and around Madison and Henderson counties. The goal of the program is to enable older adults who use the service to obtain essential services and maintain their independence, dignity and quality of life. Because the program provides door-through-door service, volunteers stay with the rider and assist with tasks such as checking in to medical appointments or grocery shopping, which provide participants with an extra layer of security and support. Participants contribute to the cost of service through small membership fees, but volunteers are the key ingredient.
 
Transportation services for older adults generally is curbside or door-to door, so this program offers the community a different option for those who require a little more hands-on assistance. Providing assistance to the older adult getting in and out of the house, in and out of the vehicle and carrying items such as groceries allows people in the community to make their trip safely and not have to rely on family or friends. One rider shares, “I feel safe and comfortable with MyRide. They are always dependable and so nice! I thank each one of the drivers. MyRide has answered my prayers. Since I have no other way to go, it has taken the stress off of me to get to my appointments.” The program also helps to decrease the social isolation of the participants, because the volunteer drivers stay with the riders throughout the appointment or outing, offering a significant amount of time to form a relationship. 
 
Riders enjoy maintaining their independence and not worrying about burdening family or friends. Because the riders pay a nominal fee for the ride ($2.00 round trip), they also feel that they are taking care of their business on their own. One rider shares, “The drivers are all very exceptional people. I'm 93 years old and I depend on MyRide for all my transportation. I do not drive and my son and daughter-in-law work out of town. I use MyRide to go to the doctor, beauty shop, play cards, grocery shopping, to get my medication and to go out for lunch. I'm so thankful for MyRide; I don't have to sit in one room all day. I can get out and enjoy life.”
 
Both the riders and the volunteer drivers benefit from the friendly interaction and time for bonding this program allows. The volunteer drivers feel like they have made a true difference in someone's life, while the riders are provided with an opportunity to have a meaningful interaction with the volunteer drivers and feel a natural sense of affinity.
 
For AAAs interested in developing a similar program, the Southwest Tennessee Development District/Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability recommends getting buy in from the community. Community champions can assist in capacity building and sustainability, and also lend credibility to the program. With older adults understandably hesitant to get into the car with a stranger, a clear understanding of how volunteers are vetted shared by someone in the community that potential riders already know is essential.
 
To learn more about Southwest Tennessee Development District/Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability MyRide West Tennessee program or to obtain the program's start-up guide, contact Keita Cole, Project Coordinator, at kcole@swtdd.org
 
For more information about the 2019 winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community! You can also listen to our four-part webinar series, n4a Lunchtime Innovations, to hear your peers' secrets to success for these award-winning programs.

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