Senior transportation: Options, challenges, solutions focus of LIVE Conference

GEORGETOWN – As Sussex County’s population grows older, so grow challenges of senior citizens with no transportation or limitations on getting out and about.

Concerns, hurdles, obstacles and potential solutions punctuate the itinerary for the 2015 LIVE Conference, set for Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road in Georgetown.

In its third year, the conference is hosted by the Sussex County Advisory Committee on Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities.

“I don’t mean to overuse the word but it’s a huge challenge in Sussex County. I think it impacts more people than what we typically tend to think,” said Randy Nelson, Agency Director for Addus HealthCare Inc. “Transportation is a huge challenge in Sussex County. For a lot of people they are really isolated in areas that don’t have infrastructure in place.”

“It’s been like an elephant in the room so to speak with that for forever down here in Sussex County,” said Sally Beaumont, Advisory Committee volunteer who is one of the conference facilitators. “It’s only gotten worse and it’s going to get even worse because of all of the seniors we have here,”

This year’s conference has a “Moving Forward” theme and will focus on several transportation resources and services available to seniors and citizens with disabilities in Sussex.

One panel discussion/presentation will focus on what other communities nationwide are doing to address the transportation issue. That panel will be moderated by Ken Bock, CHEER Deputy Director.

“It will kind of look at what has worked, and what hasn’t worked in other places, particularly rural areas – assuming that the challenges are the same. And I can tell you having gone to conferences, they are,” said Mr. Nelson.

Another panel presentation, moderated by Mr. Nelson, will examine what is already in place in Delaware.

“We know there are certain things we don’t have: a subway system, we don’t have an extensive year-round bus system, we don’t have a lot of viable cab companies, and those that are here are expensive. So there are limitations already kind of within the playing field,” said Mr. Nelson.

Delaware – Sussex County in particular – has become a retirement haven.

Statewide, Delaware’s 60 and over population is 30-percent, almost double the nationwide 16-percent average, and the percentage of senior citizens in some eastern Sussex communities is much higher. Retirees from for example Washington, D.C., New York City, or even New Jersey discover that Sussex County is not a metropolitan/urban area.

“Maybe they just don’t understand how sparse it is and how hard it is to get anywhere in Sussex County,” said Ms. Beaumont. “If they are not able-bodied enough to walk wherever it is, it’s not like you have a bus stop in front of your house, like a lot of towns do in New York and New Jersey, where I came from.”

The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

The pre-noon session includes a welcome address from Ms. Beaumont and Todd Lawson, Sussex County Administrator; an introduction by Jill Rogers, Director of the Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities; a keynote address by Scott Bogren of The Community Transportation Association of America and an 11 a.m. panel discussion on rural transportation developments for seniors moderated by Mr. Bock. Panelists include Mr. Bogren, Jerome R. Lewis of the University of Delaware School of Public Policy and Administration and Rex Knowlton, former United We Ride Ambassador and former CTAA board president.

From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., a one-hour panel on specialized transportation in Sussex County moderated by Mr. Nelson will feature:

In August, Ms. Feichtl announced, at a Sussex County Council meeting, iTNSouthernDelaware’s planned September launch of a private, non-profit transportation solution for Sussex County’s seniors 55 and over. The launch will initially cover eastern/coastal areas with expansion countywide set for 2016.

“iTN is an interesting kind of model that looks like it’s ready to take off in Sussex County,” said Mr. Nelson. “We have DART which has periodically struggled with taking advantage of the amount of people here and finding a way to get them from point A to point B. We have to start looking at different ways of using our existing resources more efficiently. We are just not doing it.”

Ms. Beaumont said many seniors do not qualify for Medicaid transportation.

“And taxi cabs are very few and far between and they are very expensive. So the people that are on Medicaid can take LogistiCare and DART and these other things that are available,” Ms. Beaumont said. “It’s the people in the middle that make too much for Medicaid, and that’s not a lot. If you have too many resources you are not going to be eligible for Medicaid transportation.”

Mr. Nelson noted there are 10,000 people retiring every day in the United States.

“This is going to go on really through 2050. But it will peak in 2030,” said Mr. Nelson. “You can argue we waited a little too long to start trying to solve some of these problems we all knew were coming. I think we are at a point now where we really need to start making some changes or the growth in the senior population really could just overwhelm the service providing models.”

As seniors in Sussex go, transportation is the No. 1 issue, ahead of housing.

“One of the biggest complaints that we hear is everything from ‘how do I get to the doctor’s’ to ‘how do I get groceries,’” said Mr. Nelson.

Ms. Beaumont believes the best route is to lay a foundation and “start a dialogue and get people to be able to come and tell us from their perspective, what their needs are. We need to really try and face this transportation thing. I just hope we can create some buzz, enough to get people to come and say what they think.”

“Everybody on this panel is trying to provide solutions to a lot of the problems that we hear out in the community,” said Mr. Nelson. “That really is the purpose of the LIVE Conference.”

The hour from noon to 1 p.m. is for boxed lunch, vendor/exhibitor visits and a participation segment coined “Icebreaker: Who are you?”

The $5 admission fee includes light morning refreshments, boxed lunch and up to 30 exhibitors on display.

Pre-registration is required. To register, visit: http://bitly.com/LIVE2015Conference.

For more information, contact Sally Beaumont at 381-5491 or sbeaumont@cavtel.net.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com.

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