Below you will find a recent article from the New York Times on aging and transportation. Charlottesville is a far cry from San Diego, but transportation remains a huge issue for our seniors despite a respectable public transit system and a fairly compact area within which many desirable destinations can be found.
My parents struggled with transportation issues in their last years, 2000 through 2009. They lived in a suburb in the northeast that had no public transportation. The grocery store was a mile away as the crow flew, and twice that distance by car. The drug store was on the way to the grocery store, but required a left-hand turn across a busy street in order to get there, and there was no drive-through pharmacy window. Dad’s church was about four miles away. Their doctors were scattered all over the area, the nearest one probably six miles away. Mom drove right up until the day she had her massive stroke that killed her, but the car bore the evidence of her increasing difficulties judging where the car was compared to where the wall of the garage was, or where the next car was parked in the parking lot. That burgundy Subaru was renamed “The Raisin” by its next owner, in honor of the dents and creases creating car wrinkles.
My beloved auntie had lived in New York City for over fifty years when she decided that was too difficult. Never a car owner or a driver, she had to walk four blocks and cross six lanes of traffic to get to the nearest grocery store, and walk four blocks on either end of a subway ride to get to the doctor. When she moved to a continuing care community here in Virginia, she was delighted to find that the CCC bus would take her to the grocery store twice a week, and that the doctor came into the residents’ clinic 2-3 times each week. Where she was stymied was in getting to the theater for plays and musicals, her passion. As her mobility deteriorated, she had to hire and bring along her own aide to assist her with her walker, and later with her travel wheelchair.
My mother-in-law lived with us until very recently. She used JAUNT to get to the grocery store, the hairdresser, the Senior Center, out to lunch, and to doctor appointments. She learned to work with JAUNT’s scheduling system, but often, by the time her plan was reaching fruition, she lacked the energy to carry through with the reservation she’d made, and paid the $1.50 without having ever taken a ride. She had no problems with waiting for the return trip except for the one time that the return trip didn’t happen because the driver went to the wrong grocery store location to pick her up.
My neighbor has begun to ask for help getting to local doctor appointments because he can no longer walk from the parking area to the nearest wheelchair. He could probably walk to the nearest bus stop, but would be so exhausted by the time he reached his destination that he would not be able to focus on his medical issues when he arrived.
Transportation challenges become the most daunting issues in aging. Transitioning from automobile-based transportation to public or quasi-public transportation means one has to build in walk and/or wait times at either end of a trip, wait times that far exceed the time you might otherwise spend parking and walking to and from your store. Public transportation in our area does not operate on a schedule that can incorporate an evening theater performance, or a dinner out with friends. There is no more quick run to the grocery store, or the pharmacy, or to the hardware or home improvement store when you’ve discovered you need a tool or hardware you don’t have for the project on which you are working.
Like the couple in the story below, one has to learn a whole new, planful approach to life that can become a real stressor in the years that you supposedly have earned, in which you should be able to relax and do what you most like to do. And when you get to your shopping destination, how will you reach, and carry the items you wish to purchase? How will you move from store to store in the shopping mall? How will you get from your airline gate to the restroom when your travel attendant has parked you at the gate and there is a new, 2-hour delay to your flight?
I invite you to read this article and to comment on the gaps in transportation you’ve experienced, so that CvilleVillage can plan to meet your needs so that you can comfortably age in your home and in your community. — Helen