|Judy, an NV Rides client from Herndon.|
The NV Rides program enables older adults to “age in place” by supporting organizations that recruit volunteers to drive seniors to doctors’ offices, grocery stores, or in some cases, other essential places like a bank or pharmacy.
NV Rides is supported by Fairfax County, the Jewish Council for the Aging, the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCCNV), and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. It has been operating on a pilot basis since October and will be officially launched at a reception, open to the public, on May 19, 10-11:30 a.m., at the JCCNV, 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax.
The Shepherd’s Center of Annandale-Springfield is the most recent organization joining the NV Rides network. Other partners are the Shepherd’s Center of McLean-Arlington-Falls Church, the Herndon Village Network, Mount Vernon At Home, and Reston Community Center.
NV Rides helps participating organizations schedule rides by providing free access to a database for keeping track of volunteer drivers and people needing rides, says, program manager Jennifer Kanarek. NV Rides also helps with marketing and background checks for volunteers.
Each organization has its own policies for who is entitled to free rides. At the Shepherd’s Center of Annandale-Springfield, riders have to be at least 50 years old, live in the Annandale or Springfield area, and be must be unable to drive, says the center’s volunteer office director, Barbara Gatorian. Riders can’t be in wheelchairs, but they can use a walker or cane.
Volunteers take them to medical facilities during the week and to shopping trips on the weekend.
“The new software is going to make scheduling much more efficient,” Gatorian says. Up to now, it’s been done with pen and paper.
Volunteer drivers can decide whether they want to drive once a week, once a month, or whenever they can help – and can use the software to sign up for driving trips and receive reminders.
Without NV Rides, a lot of older people would have to take a cab or bus or rely on family or friends to drive them to the doctor’s, Gatorian says. But buses are inconvenient, family members often can’t get off work, “some people are afraid of getting into a cab by themselves, and some people just do not have anybody.”
Fairfax County’s Fastran program provides transportation to older, non-driving residents – but only for life-sustaining medical treatments. Other transportation options, like Uber, require a smartphone app, which many seniors don’t have.
Since October, NV Rides has provided more than 1,000 rides, Kanarek says. The goal, once fully operational, is to provide at least 500 a month across the region.
The Shepherd’s Center of Annandale-Springfield has about 60 clients that need rides, says Gatorian. The center offers a series of programs for seniors, including monthly Lunch ’N Life luncheons with entertainment; Adventures in Learning classes with yoga, speakers, and discussions on current events; and day trips to historical sites. The center is based in the First Presbyterian Church of Annandale but programs take place at various religious institutions.
Contact Barbara Gatorian, email@example.com, if you’re interested in volunteering with the NV Rides program.