LS effort underway to provide transportation for older residents

rpulley@lsjournal.comJune 5, 2013 

  • 17 is number of volunteers needed to start operation of Independent Transportation Network in Lee’s Summit

Lee’s Summit is to be the Kansas City area kickoff of a service giving rides to older people, available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, whether it’s to get groceries, see the doctor, or to visit a friend’s home to play cards.

It would also be available to visually impaired residents.

Susan Coffman, chair of the Lee’s Summit Human Services Advisory Board, said such a service is definitely needed. The Metroflex bus is valuable, but the vehicle sits too high for many elderly residents to climb onboard, she said.

“It gives freedom to people who otherwise would be homebound,” Coffman said. “It would make a huge difference to services in Lee’s Summit.”

She said that when People to People (a past Lee’s Summit volunteer group) was operating 80 percent of its calls were for help with transportation for senior citizens.

Kim Johnson and Suzy Makalous are co-directors of ITNGreaterKansasCity, (ITN is for Independent Transportation Network), a not-for-profit which has been working about a year to begin operations. It is an affiliate of ITN America, founded in 1995 by the mother of a boy injured by an 84-year-old driver. That group has since grown to be active in 21 states including cities like Chicago, Portland, Memphis and Orlando, and is well-established in other communities. It recently reaching a milestone of providing 500,000 rides.

The group needs at least 7 volunteers and 10 members to launch service in Lee’s Summit, but would prefer to have 17 volunteers and 15 members, Makalous said.

Riding members can be 65 and older or visually impaired. They would pay a $125 monthly fee for unlimited rides in the Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Independence service area for the pilot program, but that will be evaluted after six months. For more information about the program call (913) 481-1124 or (913) 530-8025 or go to the website: http://www.itngreaterkansa

The non-profit hopes to expand the service to Kansas City and other suburbs. One obstacle in Kansas City is a jitney ordinance which forbids people from giving rides for hire, unless they are a licensed taxi or bus.

The not-for-profit group is getting started with assistance from the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, other charitable foundations and the Mid-America Regional Council.

Lee’s Summit is a good candidate for starting the program because it has shopping, health care and other necessities within the city limits, so clients won’t have to go into Kansas City, but INTGreaterKansasCity is working with that city to change the jitney ordinance.

The service will help elderly people maintain their independence and decrease isolation, Makalous said.

It also enhances safety of the streets, because people who are losing abilities have an alternative to depending on family or friends to take them on errands, and find it easier to stop driving themselves when that time comes, she said.

How it works; trained volunteers, using their vehicles, provide rides to members. The scheduling and training is provided by ITNGreaterKansasCity. Volunteers undergo background checks and vehicle inspections. Drivers will help with packages and buckling seatbelts, but passengers who use walkers or wheelchairs will need to at least be able to move themselves into the car.

“We offer assistance too,” Johnson said. “We park the car, go into the building and make sure they arrive at the interior destination they’re supposed to arrive at.”

Senior driving stats

The Independent Transporation Network says:

• By 2030, the number of licensed drivers aged 65 and older is expected to nearly double to about 57 million.

• Roughly 90% of personal trips by people 65 and older are taken in an automobile, either as drivers or passengers.

• More than half of non-drivers 65 or older stay home on any given day partially because they lack transportation options.

• Compared with those who still drive, older non-drivers make 15% fewer trips to the doctor, 59% fewer shopping trips and visits to restaurants, and 65% fewer trips for social, family and religious activities.

• Drivers ages 80 and older have higher crash death rates than all but teen drivers.

• By 2020, more than 18,000 seniors will die in their cars each year.

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