One of the best ways to get people interested in caring for older adults is to have a positive experience — NV Rides volunteer driving program does just that. – Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FGSA, FAAN
When you’re young and you got your driver’s license, driving yourself from place to place was an entirely new level of independence. Losing the ability to drive as we grow older can happen for a lot of different reasons (and is not a normal part of aging), but usually is due to disabilities that occur due to many different chronic conditions that impact vision, hearing, and movement. (See my episode on Five Signs it’s Time to Take the Keys with Alzheimer’s disease for more information on what it takes to be able to drive if you are experiencing memory problems).
Whenever anyone has to give up their keys—it’s an automatic loss of independence. There are options to help people get around – we will go over those and talk about a unique and innovative volunteer program called NV Rides. NV Rides fills in a major gap that public transportation, carpooling, Uber, or Lyft options can’t provide — NV Rides partners volunteer drivers with older riders to provide door-to-door OR door-through-door transportation to a wide range of activities – from medical appointments to social events.
NV Rides partners volunteer drivers with older riders to provide door-to-door OR door-through-door transportation to a wide range of activities – from medical appointments to social events.
Today we’re privileged to have Jennifer Kanarek, MSW, the Program Manager of NV Rides, to share this fantastic program and transportation options for the older adults and our under capacitated fellows.
Part One of ‘Transportation Options for Older Adults:
NV Rides with Jennifer Kanarek’
According to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, about 600,000 older adults stop driving each year. This makes it hard for older adults to make doctor’s appointments, get to the grocery store, shop for necessities, visit family members and friends, or attend social events.
More importantly, not having transportation increases social isolation, which can have adverse health outcomes and impact overall well-being.
Interestingly enough, transportation is one of the most significant responsibilities for family caregivers. In fact, about 40% of caregivers spend at least five hours a week providing or making transportation arrangements. I know this to be true with my children and have long driven the #MamaTaxi!
One of the keys to age in place with dignity is to have safe and affordable housing and transportation. – Jennifer Kanarek, MSW
Type of Transportation Available For Older Adults:
Transportation is a primary domain within age-friendly cities and communities. Depending on where you live around the country, there may be more or fewer transportation options. Here are the traditional options available in most communities at some level:
- Public transit: Buses and rail services, operated and financed by federal, state, and local governments with fixed routes and set schedules. They usually have vouchers or discounted fares for older adults and people with disabilities.
- Paratransit: This program is required by the American Disabilities Act that says public transit has to have a complimentary service for people unable to access regular public transit lines. Riders have to meet eligibility requirements, and vehicles are outfitted for accessibility.
- Demand Response: It’s also known as Dial-A-Ride, but it’s a shared ride service; you catch a ride with other people with different pick-ups and destinations. This can be exhausting and very time consuming for raiders.
- Taxis: Locally licensed taxi companies with some accessible vehicles. This option costs individuals money and typically only exist in urban/ suburban areas.
- Ride-Hailing: Companies such as Uber and Lyft also cost money and may be more available in rural areas. However, connecting with these companies requires a smart phone with the app downloaded and may not be accessible to older adults who only have a landline and little to no access to the internet or cellular service.
- Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT): A benefit covered by Medicaid that covers transportation to medical appointments. This program has eligibility rules, determines allowable destinations and appropriate modes of transportation – and varies from state to state. Specialty brokers or community groups often provide the service, but a growing number of insurers and state Medicaid programs are covering Lyft and Uber rides.
- Volunteer programs: Non-profits or faith-based organizations offer transportation for medical appointments and other destinations. These programs provide “door-to-door” (or “door-through-door”) service for passengers who need someone to help them get in and out of cars, buildings and stay with them during a trip. Volunteer drivers use their vehicles or agency-owned vehicles and undergo a background check.
One example of best practice for this type of program is NV Rides. It’s a volunteer transportation program that helps fill gaps with all of the different modes of transportation available in the Washington DC metropolitan region for older adults.
Part Two of ‘Transportation Options for Older Adults:
NV Rides with Jennifer Kanarek.’
To learn more about NV Rides as a volunteering program, here are some salient points that you should know.
What Is NV Rides?
In Northern Virginia, older adults attempting to age in place face limited transportation options. They need a safe way to get to doctors’ appointments, supermarkets, and other areas— that’s where NV Rides helps out.
NV Rides coordinates a network (serves as the hub) of local partner organizations driven to help our older neighbors with their transportation needs. Through our partner organizations throughout Northern Virginia, well-organized volunteer drivers are available to help older adults with rides, conversation, and kindness for free.
NV Rides works with Fairfax County and the Jewish Council for the Aging (JCA). Furthermore, NV Rides is housed at The Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (The J). Through our partner organizations throughout Northern Virginia, well-organized volunteer drivers are available to help older adults with rides, conversation, and kindness.
How Did It Come To Be?
It began with a sentence, followed by a problem, a query, then a solution. The concept was “age in place,” and it referred to those who prefer to stay independent in their homes as long as possible. With that, non-driving elders’ access to safe and dependable transportation has arisen as a significant concern.
Then in 2013, the Fairfax County Health Department asked, “What can we do to assist our older neighbors with their transport challenges?” Fairfax County then devised a plan to combine resources to establish and sustain a community of volunteer driving groups throughout Northern Virginia.
In 2014, the Pozez Jewish Community Center in Northern Virginia decided to sponsor “NV Rides,” a non-profit organization charged with encouraging and supporting a growing network of volunteer driver organizations.
How Is It funded?
The program operates in partnership with the Jewish Council for the Aging and Montgomery County. They run a similar program called Village Rides, which connects al Montgomery County and Prince George’s County villages who also benefit from the software that NV Rides offer.
NV Rides is funded through the Washington Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Federal Transit Administration’s 5310 enhanced mobility grant, focused on older adults with disabilities. Additionally, NV Rides receives matching funds from the Fairfax County Government.
Who Is Eligible To Be A Volunteer Driver?
Anyone of legal age can sign up to be a volunteer driver. Once you sign up to drive, you may volunteer whenever you choose, whether it’s every Wednesday, once every six months, or anywhere in between. All you need is a vehicle, a willingness to assist, and a few spare hours now and then.
Starting is as simple as 1-2-3.
- Using our interactive map, find the Partner Network that is nearest to you.
- Submit to a criminal and DMV background check, along with basic one-on-one training.
- Set your schedule and locations using our easy-to-use web-based scheduling system, and provide as much assistance as you like (no minimum commitment).
Often volunteers and clients do become friends; they become companions. – Jennifer Kanarek, MSW
Who Is Eligible To Be A Rider?
Any older adult who is aging in place and has had to give up driving can become a client and request services. Our programs are geared to serve the 55+ community. . People who do not have any access to safe and reliable transportation, who need help getting to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store can become clients with an NV Rides partner program.
There is no eligibility and no means testing. The only thing that we do require for clients/riders to be ambulatory, so they need to be able to walk on their own. Our volunteer drivers cannot accommodate wheelchairs. Often volunteer drivers are older themselves, and wheelchairs are cumbersome and can be a liability. Additionally, volunteers do use their own cars and a wheelchair may not always fit in the trunk..
What Tools Are Available For Community Partners? (E.G., Scheduling System, Marketing, Network, Etc.)
NV Rides offers various services to help volunteer drivers and clients/riders implement their programs more efficiently. We do that through leveraging technology with our internet-based ride scheduling software called RideScheduler.
RideScheduler makes administering a volunteer driving program a breeze. Volunteers and administrators are working off of one common database. Volunteers can either login to see upcoming rides, or simply have an email land in their inbox with a list of upcoming opportunities. They can choose the days/time they want to volunteer based on their availability. Volunteers can see notes about clients and an estimated time commitment, so they know what they are getting themselves into. Volunteers love the platform – it’s simple and easy to use.
What Area Do You Cover?
NV Rides has a presence throughout Northern Virginia. The bulk of our programs are located in Fairfax County, where NV Rides started,however we do have partner programs in Loudoun, Arlington and Prince William as well. We are focusing on growing our presence outside of Fairfax County because the need in these areas are growing.
Where To Find The List Of The Organizations Of Your Community Partners?
NV Rides is here to support you in getting a volunteer driver program up and running in your community.
If you or your organization wants to partner with us, find a volunteer driver, apply to be a volunteer driver, get a volunteer driving program started, or have a program already but want to connect with our network, we are here to help. To get started, visit the website at http://nvrides.org/ or contact Jennifer Kanarek, Manager, via email or call 703.537.3071.
Is This A National Program?
NV Rides is a program that is specific to Northern Virginia, but there are many other volunteer driving programs all over the United States. For instance, there are Shepherd Centers located throughout the country that offer volunteer driving services.. We are very fortunate to be Shepherd Center “rich” in Northern Virginia – we have six locations in the region and they are all members of the NV Rides network. Shehatpard We think NV Rides is a wonderful model that could be replicated elsewhere. It is a unique public-private partnership that has yielded wonderful results.
How To Replicate And Scale To Other Regions Of The United States?
We are not aware of any other programs in the United States that has this type of hub for volunteer transportation. The key is to bring all of the stakeholders in your community together – local government, faith leaders, social services agencies, etc. to discuss the challenges faced by older adults who are aging in place. Transportation is always a challenge, so it is important to understand the local dynamics and build a program that meets the needs of the community. Each program will be unique, but we believe that this overall model offers a great framework to get started. Collaboration and communication will be the keys to a successful program aimed at filling transportation gaps for older adults.
Never miss to check out this Your Need to Know interview on NV Rides with Catherine Read and Jennifer Kanarek at https://youtu.be/CYI9PaBkyo0.
About Jennifer Kanarek, MSW:
Jennifer assumed leadership of the NV Rides program while it was still in its infancy. She is responsible for developing the program from an idea to today’s thriving volunteer driving network.
Jennifer has worked in the non-profit sector for 23 years in various capacities, including program management, marketing, fundraising development, and public relations. Previously, she served as a marketing director for the JCC in Manhattan, where she oversaw the marketing and outreach for older adult programs and support services.
This kind-hearted woman has also served as the program coordinator for the Senior Companion program at the Knox County Area Agency on Aging in Knoxville and a coordinator for a transitional housing program for homeless older adults administered by Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. She holds an MSW in Management, Leadership, and Community Practice from the University of Tennessee and a BS in Journalism from the University of Florida.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (‘96) and Master of Science in Nursing (‘00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I truly enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home and office visits) then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer.
I obtained my PhD in Nursing and a post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing (2011) ) and then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the faculty at George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor where I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health and Humanities.
Find out more about her work HERE.