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Systems and services for safe, mobile seniors
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Systems and services for safe, mobile seniors

MetroWest CARES (the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors), coordinated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, brings together leaders from MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical eldercare issue. This month’s article on seniors and safe mobility is presented by Daughters of Israel.

A major fear many people have is giving up their driver’s license and being stranded without any other means of transportation. They wonder, “How am I going to get to the doctor?” or “How am I going to do the things I always did without a car?”

Transportation services are an important part of maintaining a high quality of life by helping people live as independently as possible. However, whether you can no longer drive, need a ride to a medical appointment, or just want to head downtown to go to dinner and a play, transportation is an essential part of the community infrastructure that individuals need to gain access to the goods, services, and social contacts that support their day-to-day quality of life. We know that personal mobility (as measured by how often a person leaves home) shrinks as an individual ages. As adults approach their senior years, many aspects of life — physical, social, financial, and professional — are changing. For most, the retirement years are anticipated positively, with an expectation of more leisure time and lessening demands and responsibilities. Neither seniors nor their families are adequately prepared for the stresses that also accompany aging.

There are so many transportation options available in the MetroWest area, it’s hard to know where to start to find the right one. Adult children can be an enormous resource for their parents who are navigating through the retirement years. The goal to keep in mind is the attainment of a sense of well being, purpose, and self-esteem. A primary objective, which is important throughout the life cycle, is “empowerment” — the feeling that one has the ability and opportunity to make choices and have input in one’s life. This is a key aspect of older adults feeling fulfilled.

Transportation services for older people, as well as for the special-needs population, are provided by a wide variety of organizations with differing missions and areas of service.

Metro Transport, a not-for-profit transportation program serving senior citizens and adults with special needs — run by Daughters of Israel in affiliation with several other organizations serving the MetroWest community, including Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — is one such service. Its mission is to provide quality transportation services for seniors and disabled adults living within the UJC MetroWest area regardless of their ability to pay for these services. The staff of Metro Transport takes a personal interest in the well-being of its clients, sometimes going to remarkable lengths to see to their health and comfort. For more information on transportation alternatives, contact Metro Transport at 973-325-1359.

Access Link service, comparable to the NJ TRANSIT local fixed route bus system, is designed for people with disabilities who are unable to use the regular bus. To use Access Link requires applying for eligibility. Call 800-955-2321 for more information.

Morris Area Paratransit System (MAPS) is Morris County’s transportation service for senior citizens and people with disabilities. There is no charge for MAPS rides, but they do ask for donations to help pay the cost of service. Call 888-282-6277.

Essex County Special Transportation System is part of the Essex County Division of Senior Services. Call 973-395-5858.

Another good resource is New Jersey Travel Independence Program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the independence and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities, older adults, and others by empowering them to use the public transit system safely and independently. For more information, visit www.NJTIP.org.

Another web-based resource is NJ Find A Ride (njfindaride.com), a directory of accessible transportation options for people with disabilities and others in New Jersey who don’t have easy, reliable access to private automobile transportation.

Families and caregivers with broad eldercare questions and who need help with community resources can contact Elderlink (www.elderlinkmetrowest.org), a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050 or elderlink@jfsmetrowest.org.

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