The Lehigh Valley is a great place to live for people at all ages and stages. Now the third most populated area in Pennsylvania, we’ve got history, museums, music and culture right at our fingertips. For many people over age 65 who don’t drive or who have limitations to driving, the trick has been accessing what the Valley has to offer beyond attending to daily needs outside the home.
Public transportation may not be ideal. Friends and family can only do so much; yet the ability to get where one needs and wants to go is crucial to wellbeing. This is why transportation became a top priority when the Jewish Community Strategic Plan called upon Jewish organizations to “expand supportive services to older Jewish people that allow them to maximize their well-being, independence and connection to Jewish life.”
In order to address the needs and wants of the area’s older adults and make transportation for seniors a reality, the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Community Center created Jewish Senior Life Connection. In time, several new programs that address healthy and safe aging in place will come out of this collaborative.
This April, Jewish Senior Life Connection will debut The GO Program. It is a friendly, free door-to-door ride service for Jewish seniors or adults with a disability, with trained volunteers doing the driving. A simple call to Jewish Family Service will begin the process of enrollment. One of JFS’s professional staff will conduct a convenient in-home interview to identify transportation needs. Jewish Family Service’s partner agency, ShareCare Faith In Action, will track scheduling preferences and will be able to accommodate two to three round-trip rides per month, per person.
Debbie Zoller, executive director of Jewish Family Service, is enthusiastic about the expansion of services.
“Our mission is to help individuals and families cope with transitions in their lives,” she said. “By building transportation options, JFS is able to help those who need services connect in meaningful ways to their community while encouraging their ability to age in place.”
Successful aging in place means that one can safely reside in his or her own home while community resources remain accessible. In addition to helping with medical appointments, food shopping and attending to personal needs, The GO Program helps seniors stay connected to family and friends, participate in community life and take part in classes or programs that are thought-provoking and fun.
Rebecca Axelrod-Cooper, community impact coordinator at JFS, has already conducted several interviews with interested riders. “By and large, people rely on family and friends to get around,” she said. “The GO Program is perfect for those who have that and need just a little bit more. The enduring relationship between the driver and the individual is such a key part of its success.”
Several volunteer drivers have already participated in the orientation program.
“The drivers absolutely form a bond with the riders,” Axelrod-Cooper said. “One of the pleasures for them is taking the individuals to places where they will socialize or get their hair done. Seniors needing rides is not strictly about doctor’s appointments, but about maintaining a positive quality of life!”
If you or someone you care about would benefit from a few rides per month, please call Jewish Family Service at 610-821-8722 and ask about The GO Program.
Likewise, if you have a few hours to spare and want to do something wonderful for others, consider becoming a volunteer driver. The need is great and grows whenever community members enroll.