Aging Well: A Way to Ride to a Better Future?
By Dave Ruchman, Co-Chair of Local Coordinating Council serving Jefferson County ~
Many of us drive alone in a vehicle when we want to go somewhere. But what if, one day, we wake up and can no longer drive? Most seniors understand there will come a day when we can no longer drive. When the time comes, many can rely on a network of neighbors, family and friends to help get us to where we need to go. But, what if you don’t have a network to turn to for help?
In Jefferson County, the leading providers are Seniors Resource Center and Lakewood Rides. These providers, with other agencies interested in strengthening mobility services, came together under the sponsorship of the county’s Human Services’ Aging Well Initiative to increase awareness and service to three vulnerable populations: seniors, the underserved, and the disabled communities. The resulting group, the Local Coordinating Council (LCC), has conducted two studies showing the gaps between the demand and supply of mobility services. That gap is a significant problem for aging well in Jefferson County. Transportation, arguably, undergirds all other aspects of aging well.
There are challenges to closing the gap and providing the rides Jeffco citizens need. The first is money, which can provide necessary vans, drivers and staff, and insurance. Other challenges are just as great. “Silo” institutions only provide for their group, whether it is veterans, a particular church congregation, Medicaid recipients or residents of a designated area. Siloed funding restricts collaboration and coordination. It means that vans and drivers may be present but cannot be used to meet the mobility service gap.
The LCC is looking to work more with RTD, the major area public transportation provider. ADA federally mandates RTD to provide paratransit. RTD can provide regional leadership, offer expertise, bring disparate other groups together, suggest pilot programs to address these identified needs.
Transportation is vital. It “drives” so much of our lives and public policy. Your Jeffco LCC is working to improve mobility services for many of our neighbors all too often forgotten or left behind.
Aging Well in Jefferson County is a strategic planning project focused on developing and implementing strategies to create inclusive, livable communities through sustainable partnerships and integrated services. The LCC is one of six Workgroups addressing all aspects of life of aging residents in Jefferson County.