By ANTHONY HARVEY
Capital News Service
LANSING – Seniors will be one step closer to independence with the help of a $1 million federal grant to assist them in getting to doctors’ appointments.
U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both Democrats, announced that a grant to the Michigan Department of Transportation would allow more access to transportation to and from physician visits, appointments and other tasks. The grant would assist non-emergency transportation services that use buses or vans to accommodate seniors.
MDOT sponsored a grant application from the Michigan Transportation Connection, a statewide nonprofit, under a federal program called Rides to Wellness Demonstration and Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility.
“We were the supporters of the grant for the Michigan Transportation Connection. But the Michigan Transportation Connection will implement the structure of the Rides to Wellness programs,” said Tim Fischer, director of communications for MDOT
The demand for such services increases as the nation’s aging population grows. In Michigan, seniors account for nearly 16 percent of the state’s population. Those numbers become more concentrated in northern counties.
Some health care facilities already see benefits of senior independence.
“We take our seniors twice a week to shop at store like Meijer on their own to gain a sense of independence,” said Dawn Van Koevering, transportation coordinator of Georgetown Senior Transport in Ottawa County.
“Being able to shop on their own is an important aspect of gaining their independence and healthy lives,” she said.
Michigan has some resources already to help senior citizens reach healthy, independent living.
Ottawa, Allegan, Muskegon and Kent counties teamed with Pioneer Resources, a nonprofit based in Muskegon, to form the Lakeshore Ride Link, which provides a list of providers to get seniors to their medical appointments.
Non-emergency transportation services assist those who live in health care facilities, as well as those who live at home.
According to Family Caregiver Alliance, a national community-based nonprofit organization, more and more baby boomers seek the comfort of their own homes compared to long-term health care facilities.
It estimates that 80 percent of elderly people receiving assistance, like the non-emergency transportation services, live in private homes.
“I never wanted to live in a (health care facility). I feel more comfortable in my own home and getting the services I need when I ask for them,” Detroit resident Lucy Edwards said.
Edwards also uses non-emergency transportation services to get to her doctor’s office for monthly visits.
By ANTHONY HARVEY