In 1985 West Austin Caregivers was developed for the purpose of meeting the needs of the elderly living alone. West Austin was targeted as the location for this pilot volunteer program, based on 1980 census tracks reflecting a high concentration of the over-60 population. Modeled after a national volunteer caregiver project, programming included transportation, companionship and minor home repairs; services which enabled older adults to continue living independently.
Today a Network of eight organizations have the same mission of enhancing the independence of older adults, each serving a distinct area. Drive a Senior serves Austin, Georgetown Elgin, Pflugerville, Round Rock and Southwest Travis County. While each individual organization provides direct services, the Network works together to raise money, increase community awareness, and expand into unserved and underserved areas.
Trained volunteers transport clients to medical appointments, physical therapy sessions, pharmacies and other healthcare related settings. In addition, transportation for buying groceries and personal errands enhances independence and quality of life. These services complement the efforts of families and helps fill the gaps when traditional transit options do not accommodate the special needs of seniors.
Why is this service needed?
When older adults no longer drive, there are few affordable transportation options in the Austin metropolitan area:
- Family members may not always be available.
- Public transportation is not individualized and older adults often do not have the stamina required for group rides.
- Taxi services may cost too much for people on fixed incomes.
The organizations in the Drive a Senior Network offer personalized, affordable,transportation, companionship and minor home repairs at no charge to the recipients. Volunteers provided over 36,000 rides and, with all services combined, almost 80,000 volunteer hours were shared with 3200 older adults in 2013.