December 2-6 is Older Driver Safety Awareness week, and Jewish Family Service’s On the Go is happy it is. Rides & Smile, one of four components of On the Go: Transportation Solutions for Older Adults, is an award-winning program that provides transportation for older adults to necessary medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other life necessities in the North County Inland area, as well as Northern and Eastern San Diego. Rides & Smiles is the largest volunteer-based transportation service in San Diego County. Other components of the JFS On the Go program include shuttle service, organized excursions, Silver Sedan, and taxi scrip.
According to Brenda Bothel, Jewish Family Service Divisional Director, Aging & Wellness Services, individuals age 60 years and older represent the fastest growing segment of San Diego County’s population, with the number of residents expected to more than double by 2030. The lack of easy, accessible, and affordable transportation for seniors is a problem recognized at the national, state, and local levels. 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 (American Public Transportation Association).
On the Go, a community program operated by Jewish Family Service and funded by Charitable Adult Rides & Services, SANDAG and the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, helps bring independence, community connection, mobility, and dignity to older San Diegans who can no longer drive or have limited driving capabilities.
“Rides are provided by caring volunteers who donate their time to provide this valuable service and allow older adults to maintain their independence,” Bothel. “It is the largest volunteer-based transportation service in San Diego County—providing more than 2,400 rides by more than 275 350 volunteer drivers each month.” Rides & Smiles is always in need of additional volunteer drivers to meet the increasing need for transportation services in our community. Services and volunteer opportunities are open to all, regardless of religious affiliation.
Bothel noted there are a number of warning signs that indicate an older driver might need assistance. These include:
- Does not obey stop signs or traffic lights
- Fails to yield the right of way
- Drives too slowly or too quickly
- Often gets lost, even on familiar routes
- Stops at a green light or at the wrong time
- Doesn’t seem to notice other cars, pedestrians, or bike riders on the road
- Doesn’t stay in his or her lane
- Is honked at or passed often
- Reacts slowly to driving situations
- Makes poor driving decisions
“It’s always a difficult decision for an older driver to surrender his or her driver’s license and rely on others for assistance,” said Bothel. “We recognize the emotional turmoil that comes with the perceived loss of independence. Our goal at On the Go is to offer a convenience and compassionate solution that makes the transition more comfortable for the older driver, as well as family and friends who may be concerned about safety.” To learn more about On the Go or other JFS services, please call 858-637-3040 or visit the web site at jfssd.org