Five Key Components to Aging in Place – Transportation

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Sally Smith:  Welcome to Age to Age.  I’m Sally Smith.  Let’s talk.  Today, we have with us Paul Franklin, Chairman of Aging in Place, the organization committed to helping people age in their homes, or wherever they choose to age.  One of the key resources is transportation.  We’ve talked about healthy living, livable homes, financial and legal, and supportive relationships. 


I was fascinated to read that, usually, giving up the car keys turns into about a ten-year process.  There is great reluctance and it’s almost always preceded by an incident where the senior, you know, drives into the fence or almost hits somebody.  How important is this key resource?


Paul Franklin:  I think it’s embedded in most Americans, to tell you the truth.  It’s part of our independence, a feeling of being in control, and our mobility.  So, it’s not just seniors.  It’s all of us.  I hate to think of giving up my car keys because it gives me a great deal of freedom that you can’t get from public transportation.  Even though I think public transportation is wonderful, and family and friends taking you places is wonderful, having your own transportation, private transportation, is so ingrained in most Americans.


Sally Smith:  Think how much fun those 16-year-olds have when they finally get that license.  We can all relate to that instinct.


Paul Franklin:  Absolutely.  And that carries through all of our lives.  So, when adult children become concerned about their older parent’s driving skills, in the past there haven’t been too many options.  I mean, you just say, Dad, we’re taking your keys, or Mom we’re taking your keys, and it’s devastating.  It can have a huge emotional effect, a depression, because you’re taking away what they think is one of their fundamental rights for freedom of action and behavior, where they’re not dependent on somebody else.  When you take the keys, what that means is they’re going to be dependent on somebody else.  People really shy away from that, and they realize that when it happens. 


Fortunately, one of the initiatives that we have, for aging in place, is ITN, which stands for Independent Transportation Network (Charleston Trident).  It’s a group of volunteer drivers who volunteer to take people who are 65 and older, and those with visual impairments, basically, anywhere they want to go in the Tri-County area, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It doesn’t completely replace your automobile in the garage, but it comes pretty darned close, and it’s not a van; it’s a private vehicle that people would think is just a friend or someone coming by and picking you up.

That’s the other thing that makes it quite unique.  It’s not someone honking the horn outside your door.  This is someone who is going to get out, come to your door, help you down the stairs, help you with packages, help you load things into the vehicle, and help you get in and out.  It’s like a friend coming and doing those things, which is quite different.

Sally Smith:  It really covers a lot of bases because it is a supportive relationship.  It’s a friend.  It’s a connection.  It keeps you involved in life, by getting out, and the fact that it’s door to door…


Paul Franklin:  Door to door. 


Sally Smith:  Hold your arm and take you down the stairs, that’s a big difference from the taxi cab honking the horn.


Paul Franklin:  It certainly is.  I just got through, as a matter of fact, celebrating our 5,000th ride since we started on November, 15, 2006.  And guess who the driver was for the 5,000th mile?  Mayor Riley. 


Sally Smith:  Go Joe!


Paul Franklin:  I just met him, right here, at MUSC, where he took Dr. Rittenberg from MUSC back to his home.  Mayor Riley was the driver. 


Sally Smith:  How perfect.  That’s perfect.


Paul Franklin:  We have had the good fortune of having Mayor Hallman, from Mount Pleasant, do driving, as well as Mayor Summey in North Charleston.  So, they’re all drivers.


Sally Smith:  Well, you know, it’s so appropriate because, you know, what you’re doing, and what they’re doing, and hopefully more and more people will be doing, we’re trying to build a wonderful, vibrant community that works, and is there for the people that need it in a caring manner.  This is pretty perfect. 


Now, I love it too, I was reading, and wondering, when I first heard about it, I thought, this is great, volunteers and all.  But, surely, there has to be some cost involved.  I was amazed at how reasonable such a comprehensive, attractive, service is.  Tell us a little bit about that.


Paul Franklin:  Yes, we’re very fortunate.  I mentioned the support we have from all the municipalities.  MUSC is a big supporter, as well as Roper St. Francis and East Cooper hospitals, because 80 percent of our rides end up going to, usually, medical appointments.  And, of course, you would appreciate the fact that our second most popular ride is not shopping, it’s to the beauty parlor.


Sally Smith:  I really do like that!  Those girls still have to look cute.


Paul Franklin:  That’s right.  So, with the wonderful support that we get from all of these wonderful contributors, we’re able to, basically, have the client pay about half the cost of the ride.  We have a dispatcher on duty 24 hours a day.  We have, basically, an office and computers, and we have a wonderful software program that matches up volunteer drivers, and when they want to drive, with riders who call in.  So, that’s important to have that system.  Obviously, one of our huge costs is insurance.


Sally Smith:  I was going to say, whew!


Paul Franklin:  Yeah.  So, we cover insurance above and beyond volunteer driver’s personal insurance.  We have an umbrella policy on top of that.  So, there are costs involved.  We have an executive director to help pull all of this together, because it does take quite a logistics and juggling act to make everything match up.  We work at this constantly.


We also have part-time drivers because there are times when we cannot get enough volunteer drivers.  When you have 30 or 40 rides at one time, which is normally scrunch time from 10:00 to 3:00 PM, that’s when most doctor appointments take place, we have to rely, sometimes, on part-time drivers.  So, that’s part of the expense.


Sally Smith:  How does it work, say you’re using this service and you’re dropped off, and you have your appointment, do you say, could you pick me up at 3:00?  I mean, how does it work?  Some of these appointments, we all know, sadly, go over.  How does the volunteer handle, sort of, being on call like that?


Paul Franklin:  Well, that’s one of the things we really like.  The volunteers can tell us what hours they want to drive.  So, if they take someone to a location, it doesn’t mean they’re going to pick that person up; some other driver may come in and pick that person up, because their time may have lapsed, and a new driver comes in.  So, that part is taken care of by the software.


Sally Smith:  Well, what I love about it, I know a friend of mine, their mother was no longer able to drive and she lived right downtown.  It was before you were on the scene; it was years ago.  But she was quite lovely, quite social, and quite elderly, and they gave her a year’s worth of rickshaw rides.  And part of it, actually, was those boys would take her to the door.


Paul Franklin:  Oh yes.


Sally Smith:  And then she’d go to the cocktail party, or wherever she was going, and they’d come pick her up.  Of course, it only worked on sunny days and starry nights, not rainy times, but it was great.  The difference was what you touched on, you’re not asking your buddy or your daughter, or whoever, to drop everything and take you somewhere.


Paul Franklin:  Right.


Sally Smith:  It’s an independent thing, so you use it.


Paul Franklin:  That’s exactly right.


Sally Smith:  Now, to join this, obviously, you can donate money because it’s a nonprofit, but also, now, if I want to take advantage of it, I pay a subscription fee, which I believe is$35.00?


Paul Franklin:  That’s correct, $35.00 a year, and then there’s a pick-up charge of $4.00, and there’s $1.40 per mile.  So, all of that, there’s no money that changes between the driver and the rider because all of that is in the account.  So, you just set up your account, and what we do, we encourage adult children to contribute into that account.  So, instead of giving Mom that dress or that apron, or whatever, we put money into her travel account, which she’ll really appreciate.

Sally Smith:  Dealing with the money can be confusing.  We knew my mother was beginning to fade when she wrote our yardman a check for $2,000.  So, you know, you’d really probably rather it coming through some sort of a billing system, where they might have been caught.


Paul Franklin:  Yes, right.  Absolutely.


Sally Smith:  Now, anyone over 65 is eligible?


Paul Franklin:  Mm hmm.


Sally Smith:  It’s door to door service?


Paul Franklin:  Absolutely.


Sally Smith:  It’s called Independent Transportation Network.  And I have here a number:  (843) 225-2715.  Is this the best way…


Paul Franklin:  That’s correct.  That’s the best way to get in touch and say that you want to be a member, and we’ll get you set up with a membership application.  And I’d say that we really look forward to volunteer drivers.  That’s really what we need.


Sally Smith:  Tell us now, you can also bank hours of volunteerism, isn’t that right?


Paul Franklin:  Yes.  That’s exactly right.  I’m actually banking hours for my mother-in-law, who is 83, and my wife does the same thing.  So, we’re both volunteer drivers, and the hours that we accumulate, the rides that we accumulate, go into her account.  But you can donate them to anyone that you like, or for your own account, when you get to the point where you don’t want to drive.


Sally Smith:  That’s just fantastic.  That is so fantastic.  And how many volunteers would you say you have?


Paul Franklin:  We have about 50 volunteer drivers, and we’re constantly looking for more.  We have over 200 member riders.  It has expanded tremendously.  We’re averaging about 30 to 40 rides per day.


Sally Smith:  Wow.  That’s a hunk. 


Paul Franklin:  It is. 


Sally Smith:  Well, are there any criteria to be a driver, other than a safe driving record?


Paul Franklin:  Let me just say that the lieutenant governor would not be eligible.  We do have a sled check.  We check on past driving.  Plus, we have a training program.


Sally Smith:  Oh, you do have a training program?


Paul Franklin:  Oh yes.


Sally Smith:  How long does it take to participate in the training program?

Paul Franklin:  The training program usually lasts half a day.


Sally Smith:  Half a day.  I see.  Now, you also have a website for anybody that wants to learn more about it.  Do you want to give us that?


Paul Franklin:  Yes, I’ll be happy to.  It’s


Sally Smith:  And it’s pretty fantastic.  I’m seeing here, the service is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no restrictions on ride usage.


Paul Franklin:  That’s right.


Sally Smith:  So, get out there and join up!  I mean, imagine having that instead of having to keep a car.


Paul Franklin:  Yes, that’s right.


Sally Smith:  I mean, it’s like, people in New York, they don’t want to own a car.  It’s too expensive, too much trouble.


Paul Franklin:  Which reminds me, we do take donated cars.


Sally Smith:  Hey, very good point.  And I think I may somebody who wants to give you one.


Paul Franklin:  Very good.


Sally Smith:  Alright, thank you so much, Paul.


Paul Franklin:  Thank you.


Sally Smith:  I appreciate your being here.


Paul Franklin:  My pleasure, Sally.


Sally Franklin:  And thanks to our listeners for joining us today.  We always welcome your suggestions and comments.  This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying goodbye and wishing you courage and joy on your journey.  We are all connected.


If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle.  It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia.  Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the Health Professionals tab on the Podcast home page.  All profits support research at the Center on Aging.  Thanks.

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