Central Florida Named as One of Five National Sites for New Older Adults Transportation Program

Independent Transportation Network (ITN) has selected Central Florida as one of five sites for replication of its successful non-profit, low-cost transportation service for seniors.

The announcement, made Thursday, May 26, at a meeting of the community’s Elder Transportation Council, follows a decision by the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) to provide $67,500 to the Senior Resource Alliance (SRA) for the planning and development of the program locally. SRA will provide an additional $32,500 for the development phase.

ITN Orlando, which will be directed by SRA, could begin on a limited basis in the communities of Eatonville, Maitland and Winter Park, as early as the first quarter of 2006.

“The Winter Park Health Foundation Older Adults Work Group realized that mobility is the linchpin for success as we strive to create a community for a lifetime-where people of all ages are valued and supported,” said Dr. Ivan Castro, member of the WPHF Board of Trustees and chairman of its Older Adults Work Group.

ITN, based in Maine, is a program aimed at providing “community-based, and community supported, economically viable and consumer-oriented, quality transportation service for seniors.”

The service is designed for seniors who need to limit or stop driving because of age-related change that compromises their safety, independence, and mobility.  Designed to replicate the comfort and convenience of private automobile ownership, ITN uses autos and both paid and volunteer drivers to provide services around the clock.

Central Florida’s need for such a program, and the reason the WPHF and SRA are funding the planning phase, is illustrated in a Transportation Report funded and released by the WPHF on May 26th in conjunction with the pilot site announcement. The report, “What Do You Do When Your Car Won’t Take You Where You Want To Go? Transportation Issues Affecting Older Adults in Orange County, Florida,” notes  there are more than 15 million licensed drivers in Florida with 4.6 million aged 55 and older. In Orange County, this group represents 20.6 percent of the licensed population.

Seniors, the report notes, want to preserve their independence as long as possible and mobility is a key to that freedom. Lack of mobility can lead to social isolation and depression. Few seniors who stop driving convert to use of public transportation, so alternatives are needed.

Dr. Douglas Beach, CEO of The Senior Resource Alliance, states “This program will be one more piece in the effort to solve the puzzle of senior transportation.  For many seniors, transporation is a limiting factor and we hope this program will help to reduce that limitiation for seniors in Winter Park, Maitland, and Eatonville.”