One of the major concerns of elderly persons is transportation. Many older persons cannot drive and many who could dread and whenever possible avoid the experience. Public transportation cannot provide door-to-door service and taxicabs are costly. To alleviate this situation most area agencies that help the elderly provide a variety of transportation services at nominal cost and sometimes without cost.
One of the popular transportation services is the weekly shopping bus. In Prince George's County, elderly residents of communities including Brentwood. Mt. Ranier, Cottage City, Colmar Manor, Chillum and Queenstown have regular bus service every Monday, Thursday and Friday during mid-day hours to area shopping malls. The fare is 10 cents each was using a punch card system of 20 rides for $2 Tickets are available on the buses and at most apartment buildings where sizable numbers of elderly people live. Schedules are provided by the Department of Services and Programs for the Aging, telephone 350-0650.
The benefits of the service are fare more than the normal cost.
Ninety per cent of the drivers are themselves retired persons who understand when their passengers may need a helping hand. The last pickup point for the return trip is the supermarket so that foods can soon be stored at home.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Brumbaugh of Hyattsville have established their own schedule on the weekly trips to the shopping mall. They separate at first and meet later at the return bus stop. Mrs. Brumbaugh chooses a department store, to buy or just to look. Brumbaugh heads for the supermarket for grocery buying. There is no hurry and he shops carefully, going over the half-price bakery goods rack, selecting a coffee cake, perhaps a pie, and a loaf or two of bread. If he has planned to buy some frozen foods, he said, he takes along some newspaper to wrap the items to prevent thawing.
Most riders of the shopping bus are regulars and they know who is to get on at every stop. If someone is not waiting and if they suspect that he or she is only late, the bus waits. One day the bus driver even cruised around looking for the mailman who was late with a needed check.
Among the passengers recently were Roy L. Brown from Cottage City and Inez Brown from Colmar Manor, who are brother and sister-in-law. "It's a godsend" said Mrs. Brown of the bus service. "We don't drive, and without this bus we would have a hard time. Here at the shopping center we can get to the bank, the post office, stores and the supermarket."
One woman said that there is no supermarket within a two-mile radius of her home. Another passenger, Jackie Hassan of Hyattsville, who does have other means of transport, said she rides the bus "to help keep it filled so they will keep it running for those who need it."
That ordinary public transportation could not easily meet the needs of the elderly is particularly clear on the homeward trip. Many passengers need help to board the bus and there are many sacks of groceries to load, and later unload. This help is given by Henry Horan, their friend and driver, with frequent help from W.R. Gruver, a regular passenger.
The elderly population distribution and transportation needs in Montgomery County are not entirely comparatble to those in Prince George's County and consequently, transportation provisions are somewhat different. There is Elderbus service at 10 cents a ride, exclusively for the elderly but with no printed scheduled for pickup points.
Elderbuses stop at most housing centers for senior citizens. Information about pickup points and times is available from the Division of Elder Affairs, telephone 279-1487.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation owns and operates the Ride-On system, soon to be explained, which currently serves the Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, East Silver Spring and Langley Park areas. Older persons can use this service for any need including shopping. The charge is 25 cents a ride over a regular scheduled route. Exact fare is required. Further informatio is available by calling the TESS-LOOP office 588-7333.
The stated goal in Montgomery County, according to the county's current area plan is. "All elders should have access to appropriate modes of transport to allow mobility in the county." The priority areas for elderly transportation are grocery shopping, lunch program and Retired Senior Volunteer Program, say county planners.
Montgomery County has formulated plans that would cut Elderbus services in lower county areas, where Ride-On services are to be expanded, and increase Elderbus services in the upper county areas.
In both counties there are various special transportation services for meeting special needs and interests of the elderly. These will be described in a later issue of the Maryland Weekly.
In Prince George's County, transportation services for the elderly are coordinated by the Department of Services and Programs for the Aging and in Montgomery County the agency is the Division of Elder Affairs.