Nashville currently has 30,000 residents who are 75 and older, those most likely to have multiple chronic health conditions that often restrict driving. A 2011 Transportation for America study revealed that the Nashville region ranked 4th worst in terms of senior access to public transportation. Studies have also shown that that reduced mobility limits the lifespan for older adults and can place them at higher risk of poor health, isolation, loneliness and depression. The need for affordable, reliable, assisted transportation (‘door-through-door’ or ‘door-to-door’) is one of the biggest unmet needs for older adults in our community.
With the support of the West End Home Foundation, the Council On Aging of Middle Tennessee convened the Senior Transportation Leadership Coalition in 2015, comprised of public, nonprofit and private sector stakeholders from transportation and aging services with a goal to address the mobility challenges facing non-driving seniors of Nashville/Davidson County. As a result, Senior Ride Nashville launched in November 2017 as a new nonprofit offering an affordable, assisted, volunteer-powered ride program for Davidson County residents age 60 and older.
In 2018, the organization’s first full year of operations, Senior Ride Nashville provided over 3,200 trips to Nashville’s senior residents. Over 80 volunteer drivers were screened and trained allowing the organization to enroll and serve 165 senior riders. Services launched in Bellevue and the program has since expanded to include riders throughout West Nashville, Madison, Old Hickory, Hermitage, and Donelson with the goal of gradual expansion, as volunteer capacity allows, until the program is available to seniors throughout Davidson County.
Martha S. is one of Senior Ride’s first and most active riders, having taken 250 trips since becoming a member. At 95 years old, Martha has an active lifestyle that she has been able to maintain with the help of Senior Ride since she made the decision to stop driving last year.
“Nobody ever told me to stop, but I thought 94 sounded like a really good age to stop driving,” she said. In September 2018, Martha took the organization’s 2,000th ride — from the passenger seat which she now prefers. “I just don’t ever want to sit home. I don’t like staying home.”
With Senior Ride Nashville, Martha doesn’t have to stay home. She uses the service to get to appointments, to exercise, and to work at St. Thomas Hospital where the former registered nurse volunteers once a week, more than seven decades since she went to St. Thomas’ School of Nursing and became an RN.
“I am really pleased, I don’t know how you could do any better. The volunteers are a dedicated group, and nobody has left me standing yet,” she says of Senior Ride Nashville with a chuckle.
Hear more about Martha’s experience using Senior Ride Nashville by clicking here.
Senior Ride Nashville is grateful for the early and continued support of the West End Home Foundation, without whom, improved senior transportation would still be an unmet need in the Nashville/Davidson County community.