Senior transportation program opens up people’s worlds
Participants in Mystic Valley Elder Services’ TRIP Metro North Program are getting to places near, far and just plain out of the way. For seniors who don’t drive, it is making all the difference in their lives.
Mintolia Bazelais, 79, of Malden, is a lifelong church attendee since her childhood in Cayes, Haiti. Through the TRIP program, she rides to her church in North Cambridge with a fellow parishioner to sing in the church choir and attend Mass. “It means a lot to me to go there because we have everything in my own language,” she said.
She continued, “I don’t always feel well, but I’m still on my feet. And I always go to church, no matter what.”
Mintolia is one of the more than 160 people who have taken more than 36,000 rides with 230 different drivers since TRIP began more than five years ago.
The TRIP program is open to adults aged 60 and older and adults of all ages living with disabilities who do not drive, for whom public transportation isn’t an option, and who live in Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Stoneham, Wakefield and Winthrop. Drivers do not need to live in these cities or towns. Each month participants make arrangements with friends, neighbors or other folks interested in helping out (including relatives, in some special cases) to drive them where they need to go.
TRIP is a one-on-one program, where riders and drivers make their own schedules. Together, they keep track of the mileage. At the end of the month after travel, TRIP sends a reimbursement check to the rider to give to the rider’s driver. Participants may work with more than one driver, if that is more convenient.
Sometimes finding a driver is just a matter of asking. Carlyle Braxton, 75, of Medford, asked his downstairs neighbor to be his TRIP driver.
Carlyle is a Vietnam War veteran who earned two Bronze Stars while serving in the U.S. Navy behind enemy lines during two tours of duty. Several months ago, his heart issues and a prosthetic with a problematic brace demanded much medical attention. Getting to the U.S. Veteran’s Administration medical facilities in West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain on time for numerous checkups and scans was essential. Through the TRIP program, he was able to ride there with his neighbor and get the medical treatment he needed.
“Sometimes I would need to be there four hours, and it was critical that I get there on time,” Carlyle said.
Now that his health has improved, Carlyle said, he has used TRIP to get to out-of-the-way destinations, including stores in North Reading and Lynn and a water park in Central Massachusetts for recreation. “The mileage reimbursement has helped my driver pay for gas. And I needed to treat myself – to enjoy the fresh air and sun,” he said with a laugh. “TRIP is heaven-sent – a really wonderful program.”
Many seniors noted that the reimbursement aspect of the program has made a significant difference in their willingness to seek out a driver.
Susan Barchard, 61, of Stoneham, also rides with a neighbor. “My driver is a godsend,” she said. “She takes me to the bank, the grocery store and the library so I have books to read.” Susan says they’ve even gone to the Walmart in Tewksbury and Calareso’s Farmstand in Reading, all in the same trip.
She said, “I’m so grateful for the TRIP program. The best part of the program is that I can get to the Lindenwood Cemetery in Stoneham to place flowers on my mother’s grave. It means the world to me.” Susan added that, while the Lindenwood is only three miles away, without TRIP, she wouldn’t be able to get there.
For more information about qualifying for TRIP and to apply, call 781-388-4819.
About Mystic Valley Elder Services
MVES is a nonprofit agency providing essential home- and community-based care and resources to elders, adults living with disabilities, and caregivers who reside in Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Stoneham, Wakefield and Winthrop. MVES services include coordination of home care, transportation, Meals on Wheels, and information and referrals. For more information, please call 781-324-7705 or visit www.mves.org.