Senior’s ride pilot program highlights need for service

  • Apr. 12, 2018 7:30 p.m.

Paul Rodgers

A new program has been going through its pilot testing phase and has so far been extremely well received. Better at Home’s Drive Program utilizes volunteer drivers to provide Cranbrook’s seniors with affordable rides to go to appointments, get groceries, attend recreational activities and more.

“The motivation originally came from the community during development stages of Better at Home back in 2012 identifying that transportation and grocery shopping, which is a part of this, are among the highest needs in the community,” said Laurie Harris from Better at Home.

Volunteer drivers must go through all the standard volunteer screening, Harris explained, including providing ICBC

driver’s abstracts, ensuring proper insurance, criminal record checks and reference checks as well as checking for vehicle suitability and reliability.

“Essentially the program is for those who can quite safely get themselves in and out of a car so we’re not able so much to work with people who have really significant barriers to mobility,” Harris said, adding that at this point they can work with people who have walkers or canes, and, to a certain extent wheelchairs, provided they can get themselves transferred over to the car and the volunteer’s car has space to fit it.

Clients will pay a $5 fee for each round trip. Those who are absolutely unable to afford that will be able to negotiate a deal, and there is a bit of a subsidy pot available to help with those situations.

“But we also acknowledge some people really take pride in payment and want to be able to help the volunteers cover their cross and help the program cover its cost as well,” Harris said.

They are selling $20 drive cards, similar to coffee loyalty cards, that will get the client four round trips, and seniors will be provided with the phone number of their drive buddy, so that they can call and schedule a ride directly with them.

Right now they have six drivers and are looking to get more, and some team leaders, but the program has been well received by drivers and clients alike.

“They’ve really enjoyed it and they’ve been incredibly grateful for it,” Harris said. “And that’s the really rewarding piece for the drivers as well, is the really warm feedback they get from their buddies who are just so incredibly grateful to have somebody to call on and to have another option available that is very affordable and quite frankly is a little bit of a social visit as well.”

Harris said that their organization is aware that many of the local seniors who require a service such as this, are not getting out of the house frequently, so this service provides an added social element which “means the world to some people.”

The pilot has revealed that there is indeed a substantial need in this community.

“So it has the potential to take off, this is what the pilot has show us, we know that the need is significant, we’re not trying to take business away from HandyDART or the taxis, we’re just trying to offer another option for people that can’t or are not able to access those services.”

Harris said that they also hope to grow the program over time, moving from being solely a seniors’ program into servicing the needs of people with disabilities or single moms, for example. Harris reiterated that the success of the program is dependent on its volunteers.

“We’ve been testing it on a very limited basis because we know that the demand is so high and the program will succeed based on how many volunteers get to come forward.”

The needs of the clients are matched with the availability and desired workload of the volunteers. Drivers must commit to between two to six trips per month, have a reliable vehicle and clean driving record. Drivers will be reimbursed for mileage. If you are interested in getting involved email betterathome@ccssebc.com

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