If you missed our live online chat with Elinor Ginzler, former AARP vice president for health and current senior director for supportive services at the Jewish Council for the Aging in Rockville, Md., read the transcript of the conversation below.
Comment from Chantilly@BiculturalMom: I know that many communities offer support for transportation through insurance or local initiatives. How can we find out if our community has a free or reduced rate program for elder transportation?
Elinor Ginzler: You are right that many communities have programs to help seniors get around without driving their cars. The best way to find out about the resources in your community is to call your local aging office. For help finding your local office, use the Department of Health and Human Services-sponsored Eldercare Locator online tool (eldercare.gov), or call them at 1-800-677-1116 to find the aging office for your community.
Comment from Ron: My dad is too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid, but he cannot afford private taxis too often. What transportation options exist for seniors of moderate means? Does Medicare pay for transportation services?
Elinor Ginzler: Many people find themselves in the exact same situation as your dad. If he used to own a car or still does, it can be eye opening to calculate how much it costs to maintain a car. The Hartford has a great worksheet available. Fill it out, and when you finish adding up the costs of fuel, maintenance, repair, insurance and more, you'll find that your dad has a transportation allowance available to him that will mean many, many taxi rides.
Comment from Dorothy Kane: My husband was diagnosed with MCI [Mild Cognitive Impairment] about four years ago. His short-term memory has definitely gotten worse. However, he still drives every day. He goes to three different parks that are about two miles from our house. He has done fine so far, but as time goes by I am concerned that he will cause an accident. He loves to be able to go out on his own when I'm not with him. What suggestions do you have for getting him to stop driving?
Elinor Ginzler: It's good that you're concerned — and it's really good that he's doing fine so far. If he gets more impaired, however, you'll need to be on the lookout for signs that driving is no longer safe. It's a good idea to start talking about this now when his driving is still OK. Ask him to think about what he wants to do to stay safe on the road. Find out about local transportation options so he will still be able to go to those parks he likes so much.
Comment from Lorie: I currently work full-time while taking care of my aunt. It is very hard to take time off of work to take her back and forth from home to doctors' appointments. She doesn't qualify for any services, but we can't afford to pay transportation costs all the time. Are there volunteer programs that help with transportation?
Elinor Ginzler: Volunteer driver programs are alive and well in communities across the country. Many communities rely on volunteer programs to help provide needed services to seniors. It does take some detective work on your part though, because it might be a church or local help group that is offering the service. I know that some "Senior Villages" that are cropping up in neighborhoods around the country report that transportation is the most-requested service and that they rely on neighbors helping neighbors to volunteer and provide those rides.
Next page: Transportation resources in small towns. »