Affordable transportation options can be critical to the ability of older adults and persons with disabilities to get where they need to go, when they need to go especially when they have limited their driving, have stopped driving altogether and/or have mobility issues.
The Emmett Elderly Opportunity Agency announced they have received three new 6-passenger wheelchair accessible mini-vans. The minivans were made possible through grants from ITD-Public Transportation, St. Luke’s Community Health Improvement Fund, the Harvest Foundation and fund raising by the Gem County Senior and Community Center.
Two of the new vans have been placed into service in the Elderly Opportunity Agency’s S.W. Idaho Transit program. The third van has been placed into service at the Gem County Senior and Community Center.
“Those who depend upon rural public transit services are often those without access to transportation. Older populations, persons with disabilities, the working poor, veterans, minorities and others need effective mobility to avoid the stifling isolation that degrades their health, independence and overall quality of life,” EOA Executive Director Donna Waters said.
The growing population of older individuals in rural communities absolutely depends on their local transit systems to be able to age-in-place and live out their years in the communities they call home. From health care appointments to congregate meals to shopping and social outings, rural public transit is vital to the fastest growing segment of the rural population ... seniors.
EOA contracts with 14 senior centers in eight SW Idaho counties to provide rural demand response transportation services to seniors aged 60 and over, persons with disabilities of any age and their caregivers/companions, and the general public that do not have access to transportation. Their current service area includes the communities of Idaho City, Cambridge, Cascade, Council, Emmett, Homedale, Horseshoe Bend, Marsing, McCall, Melba, New Meadows, New Plymouth, Grand View and Weiser. EOA’s transportation program provides access to and from congregate meal sites, health care services, and wellness activities, social and recreational activities, which are key factors to living a meaningful and independent life in the community. Services are generally limited to a 10 mile radius within these communities with occasional trips into the Treasure Valley area.
The transportation program, while serving many communities, had a gap in service needs for providing regular long distance transportation to and from essential services available in the Treasure Valley area as well as serving the small communities that lie in between the communities they currently serve. By adding the S.W. Idaho Transit program in July of 2018 they expanded their transportation services to add long distance transportation services for the target population to access essential services from rural communities into the Treasure Valley area.
“Transportation services are free to our targeted population and is the only available demand response transportation service to meet the special needs of our targeted population in the rural communities we serve,” Waters said. “The transportation program is currently funded by contracts, grants and donations and has been such an overwhelming success that the original forecasted budget has now been stretched pretty thin.”
The agency continues to apply for additional grants, but with the increase in need for our transportation services and the rapid expansion of the program, maintaining adequate funding remains a constant concern for them.
Elderly Opportunity Agency, Inc., a 501©(3), has been serving Idaho seniors since 1973. Their mission is to provide quality services and programs to senior adults in eight Southwest Idaho counties through housing, transportation, nutritional, social, wellness and recreational activities that enhance their well-being, support their independence and encourage their continued involvement in and with their communities.
For more information about EOA’s services or to donate to this program call 208-365-4461 or 800-273-4462. EOA is at 134 N. Washington Ave.