Stranded

Stranded

I grew up in a big city with a bus stop and a subway station right at the corner. No need for a car to get around town; but transportation is another matter today.

Now living in the suburbs, my auto is indispensable. Bus routes are limited and stops are usually distant from suburban homes. Newer rapid transit still requires means of access.

Transportation is an on-going challenge in cities and towns across the country, especially as our population ages. Women in our 70Candles! conversation groups worry aloud about what to do when they can no longer drive.

We need to give up our keys when faced with vision, vertigo, or coordination problems; but does a woman's independence have to be sacrificed too?

Until the day that self-driving vehicles are available to pick us up and drop us off as needed, we must think of creative solutions...now. It's unrealistic to rely on younger friends or family members who work all day. Community resources need to be expanded and they need to be accessible. Here are some ideas:

City buses all need lifts, for those on foot as well as for wheelchairs, to replace those high steps. Subway stations need elevators as an alternative to steep staircases. This would help more than just the elderly. Parents with toddlers, babies and strollers, as well as those with physical handicaps would benefit as well.

Idle busses and vans could be recruited during the day and at night to transport those who cannot drive. School buses, preschool/after school vans, that sit waiting for the school day to end, could be kept in use.

Senior centers should have the means to pick up participants at their homes and return them later in the day. Independent living and assisted living residences have some, but could probably use more of their own transport vehicles.

What about Uber and Lyft? These are handy for those who can afford them, and can be personalized when a driver connects for scheduled weekly appointments. However, they can be costly for seniors on fixed incomes, and many still don't own smart phones required for accessing these services.

Some communities have retired neighbors willing, for a reasonable charge, or in bartering arrangements, to provide rides to and from airports, malls, or other destinations. Maybe more people should consider providing such a service for their neighbors.

What will it take realize any of these ideas? Community activism. Seniors are the fastest growing portion of our population. Our voices will be heard if we join together in efforts to improve lives. To expand on Sheryl Sandberg's urging, "...we need to speak out, identify the barriers that are holding us [old] women back and find solutions."

JG

70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade by Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole, Taos Institute Publications