Aging in Place+Gallivant hopes to aid more seniors with extended hours
Published 2:30 pm, Saturday, June 2, 2012
For the majority of the Tuesday morning after Memorial Day weekend, there was a single passenger on the 12-seater van marked "Gallivant": this reporter. It ended up criss-crossing the Boston Post Road several times during the morning and eventually picked up one lady dressed in a brilliant shade of violet for a doctor's appointment. She would be the only senior citizen to utilize the handicap-accessible van that morning.
Aging in Place+Gallivant has expanded its free transportation services for Darien seniors and disabled residents to Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and would like to welcome more clients since their vehicles often operate well below full capacity.
The dispatch service that handles the calls scheduling rides reports up to 10 calls a day. Aging in Place+Gallivant hopes the extended hours will encourage more seniors and disabled residents to call for rides.
Wyn Ledecker, transportation committee chairman, encourages Darien seniors to take advantage of the service. "A lot of people don't want to ask for help, but you know what -- it's there. You can go to the beach, get your hair done, go out with your friends -- it's not just medical appointments."
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"It's wonderful to live in a community like Darien where there are different age groups. Ninety percent of senior citizens (according to a AARP survey) want to stay with families in homes and don't want to be institutionalized," Ledecker added.
Clients use the free service, which includes a handicap-accessible van, for a variety of errands, including medical appointments, grocery shopping, hair and nail appointments, visiting friends and visits to local spots such as the library and the senior center. The program covers destinations in Darien, Stamford, New Canaan and Norwalk. Volunteers provide rides to further towns such as Greenwich and Westport, as well as requests on weekends and evenings after 5 p.m.
The recent addition of a sedan to the program offers more options for seniors who might be using walkers or canes or are less comfortable with the idea of having a large van steer into their driveway.
"The sedan, which we have running now, is a lot more discrete," said Gina Blum, director of Aging in Place+Gallivant. "Some people might not want that big thing pulling up in their driveway and having the neighbors say, `Oh, so that's what so-and-so is using.'"
According to Blum, the organization has had the sedan for some time, but had to hire another part-time driver so they could have someone take up the wheel.
Jerry Meehan is that new driver. He started working part-time in late March, and now knows many of the seniors by name. When driving the van, he notes about three to five "regulars" who he takes to the senior center for daily activities.
"It's great knowing that you're doing something useful, that you're helping these seniors stay in their homes," he said.
To schedule a ride, call 203-655-2227 preferably 24 hours in advance for regular activities, and 48 hours in advance for medical appointments.
The caller should be prepared with all of the information necessary to make a reservation: day and date the ride is needed; time of the appointment; requested pick up time; exact address of destination; and whether the handicap-accessible van is needed. Passengers who use walkers should request the sedan.
The rides are free of charge, but the organization said a $5 donation would be appreciated.
Contact Blum at 203-585-4094 or visit www.aginginplacegallivant.org for more information.