Transportation helps seniors maintain independence, sense of self

I stopped driving about five years ago. It turns out I was aging and didn’t know it. There were signals, like my reflexes not being as quick as they once were, or thinking I knew how far away something was and I didn’t. And then there were the ones that took my breath away, like “Whoa, that was a close call.” After two or three of those, I said, “OK Harold, it’s time.”

It’s hard to give up driving when you don’t know how you’re going to get around. I live in an apartment building for seniors, but I’m an active person. I couldn’t imagine being stuck in that building, with those same people every day—nice building, nice people, nice surroundings, but I like getting out. I like to go down to the symphony or to Butler University for talks, but it’s very hard to get there and back using public transportation. Even worse, IndyGo doesn’t run late enough for the socializing and fun after events. That’s the part that’s exhilarating.

I use IndyGo’s Open Door paratransit service, which provides door-to-door service for people with disabilities. As a senior, I’ve had my shoulder and both hips replaced. I look like I’m a together person, but if somebody knocks me down or I stumble and fall … I can’t walk to a bus stop or stand there waiting for the bus. It’s a harsh reality to know that if I have to get to the hospital, I have no way to get there other than to wait for the ambulance.

A lack of mobility affects our sociability; it affects our entertainment. I need to be mobile to connect to the institutions I value—cultural, social, religious and economic. When I owned a car, it was a way for me to remain viable in the community. Then you get old and can no longer drive because of physical limitations and chronic conditions, which is a very hard pill for all of us to swallow. We don’t want to give up driving because we know transportation is poor. I can’t count on my relatives. Someone isn’t always there when I need them. I try to be grateful when someone helps me, but in the end, the enormity of my dependence on others produces stress.

Not having access to transportation is also a barrier to companionship. I’ve lost the people that I spent my life with, who loved me. Before I found Open Door, I just wanted to find an escape, to go back to New York or somewhere else in the world where I can be self-reliant.